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Volume LX] [Number 1 

Whole Xmnber 146 




Professor of HiAtory, JSutler College, Indianapolis, Ind* 








IF any defense is necessary for discussing to-day not 
only the Constantine of history but also the historic 
ghost of Constantine, t. e., the legends and the forgery 
which later times produced in his name, it can be found 
in the fact that starting at one time with a study of the 
religious revolution which centered in Constantine, and 
at another with the "Donation of Constantine/' forged 
in the eighth century, I found myself in both instances 
without any logical stopping-place short of a considera- 
tion of the whole field. If in the present work parts of 
this field are somewhat imperfectly covered, it is my 
hope that these imperfections may not too seriously 
impeach the soundness of this procedure. Even the 
brief summary herein given of the modern critical study 
of Constantine and Constantinian legends furnishes, in 
contrast with the early medieval accounts of the emperor, 
an interesting illustration of the revolution wrought by 
the modern, scientific-historical spirit. It gains peculiar 
interest when one considers that Constantine was perhaps 
the greatest promoter of that other revolution, in which 
the Christian church gained the mastery of the Roman and 
Medieval mind, and that the Constantinian legends were 
among the notable products of the type of piety long 
promoted by that church. Two of the greatest revolu- 
tions in European history thus confront each other, as it 
were, upon common ground. 

I have tried to indicate in the following pages the 
various items of my indebtedness in the preparation of 


this work. In some cases, however, mere references are 
not enough The writings of Professor O. Seeck have 
not only given me much information which I would 
otherwise have missed, but have proved stimulating and 
fruitful in suggestions. The " Prolegomena" and notes 
which Professor A. C. McGiffert and Dr. E. C. Richard- 
son contributed some twenty-five years ago to the vol- 
ume devoted to Eusebius in the Nicene and Post-Nicene 
Fathers were among the first guides to introduce me to 
the field of work in which I have since found much 
rather unexpected interest. To Lorenzo Valla's Libelhts 
de falso credita et ementita Constantim donatione> with 
its keen wit and able, though defective, historical criti- 
cism, I owe my first interest in subjects dealt with in the 
latter part of my work. 

I had originally intended to add an English translation 
of Valla's Treatise as an appendix to this work. It has 
seemed best, however, to publish the translation, together 
with a critical edition of the text, in separate form. 
This, I hope, may appear within a short time. Among 
the greatest obligations I owe for help in the present 
publication is that to Professor Deane P. Lockwood, of 
Columbia University, for his reading and frequent re- 
vision of this translation. Though the publication of 
this is deferred, many of his suggestions have been of 
value in other connections. 

To Professor J. T. Shotwell, of Columbia University, 
I am indebted for countless manifestations of efficient 
leadership in a field of study in which he is master, for 
suggestions both as to the general plan and as to details, 
which have always been helpful. For the time and 
trouble which he has freely given no acknowledgment 
can be too great. I wish also to express my sense of 
obligation to Professor W. W. Rockwell, of Union 



Theological Seminary, for reading my manuscript and 
strengthening the discussion of a number of ;f points by 
his comments. Among others who have contributed, 
either by direct suggestions or by making it possible for 
me to obtain books otherwise inaccessible, are Professors 
J. H. Robinson and Munro Smith, of Columbia Uni- 
versity, Professor George L. Burr, of Cornell University, 
and my colleagues, H. M. Gelston and E. H. Hollands, 
now of the University of Kansas. To the editors of the 
Series in which this work appears my thanks are due for 
courteous and effective co-operation and for help which 
has made the burden of publication comparatively easy. 


fitt tier College, Indianapolis, Apwl, 





THE PROBLEM ............... , ....... 17 




I. Laws. ............... , . , . . 25 

2 Coinage ..................... 45 

3 Inscriptions ........................ 47 

4 Wnttngs . . ........... 53 


I Church building ........ ....... 56 

3, Constantme's actions at Rome .............. 61 

3 Personal favor shown churchmen and the church ........ 62 

4 Attitude toward paganism . ... ...... 63 

5. Constantine's activity m church affairs, and his motives ...... 67 



z. Various early versions ., ................. 7 2 

st. Constantino's early paganism ................... 73 

3. Campaign against Maxentius, and adoption of the Christian kibarum . . 77 

51 5 



4. Constantme's Christianity . . , . Si 

5. Transition from paganism to Christianity in the Roman Empire . 82 
6 Constantino's baptism . 7 

7. Ethical aspects of Constantme's life . . 89 

8. Summary . . 94 



1. Significance of legends about Constantme . . 99 

2. Lack of the historical spirit in Constantme's time . . 100 

3. Incentives to legend making , . 102 

4. Constantme's part in the process . . 105 

5. Eusebms of Caesarea . . . 107 



1. Legend of Claudian descent * 112 

2. Legends of Helena and the True Cross 116 

3. Later legends of Constantme's birth and rise to imperial position. . . 120 


1. Its meagerness 123 

2. Emperor Julian's version of Constantine 124 

3. Development of the pagan legend . . . 128 



1. Pagan and Christian legends of divine aid 131 

2. Early legends of miraculous conversion * 135 

3. Legends of saintlmess , . . , . * 141 

4. Legends of church building 147 

5. Legends of the founding of Constantinople 14$ 



I Legends of Constantme's conversion by Helena, of his baptism by 

Eusebius of Rome ... .... 152 

2. Earliest version of Constantino's leprosy .... . . , 153 

3 Armenian version of this legend . ... 155 

4. Connection of the legend with Rome and with Sylvester 158 

5 The Vita Silvestn 161 

6 Development of the Sylvester-Constantme legend 164 

7 General acceptance of the legend 169 




1. The Constitutum Constantim and the " Donation " it contains 175 

2. Acceptance and use of the Constitutum Constantim and its ' Donation " 178 


I Stages of criticism 184 

2. Criticism of the Donation " previous to the fifteenth century 184 

3. The contest against the papacy in the early fifteenth century, and Cusanus' 

criticism of the " Donation " , 188 

4. Valla's Treatise 191 

5. Other critics in the time of the Renaissance 199 



1. Hutten's publication of Valla's Treatise 203 

2. Luther's attitude, Protestant attack, Catholic defense 204 

3. Baronms . 26 

4. Character of modern, scientific, criticism 208 

5. Conclusions as to the origin of the " Donation " 209 





I. Vita Silvestn (in part) 217 

II. Constitutum Constantim . . . . . 228 

III. Cusarras' criticism of the " Donation " . 237 


INDEX . . . . . 255 


FEW generations have occupied a position of such de- 
cisive importance in European history as did that of 
Constantine the Great. It was the crisis m the rise of 
Christianity to dominance in European civilization. The 
part which the Emperor himself took in this momentous 
revolution makes him one of the most commanding 
figures of antiquity. It is with this aspect alone of his 
reign that the following pages deal. Though his mili- 
tary, financial and political arrangements were of con- 
siderable significance for subsequent times, I have 
referred to them only incidentally, and so far as is neces- 
sary for my specific purpose. I have, however, attempted 
to make a fairly full and critical study of Constantine in 
his relation to Christianity. 

This study early divided itself into three sections. 
First, it was necessary to get at the historical facts, so 
far as ascertainable, of Constantine's attitude toward 
Christianity and the Church Second, the legendary 
process had to be taken into account by which Constan- 
tine's actual position in religious matters was dis- 
torted, and in this distorted form influenced subsequent 
generations. In the third place, consideration had to be 
given to the extension of this legendary process in a 
great forgery, the so-called Donation of Constantine. 
The first Christian emperor may thus be said to have 
had in European history three distinct spheres of influ- 
ence, occupied respectively by the real, the legendary, 
and the spurious Constantine. The latter two have their 
9] > 


own intrinsic importance as well as the first. 1 They are 
of interest also as illustrating the history of the intel- 
lectual development of Europe. No tests of this devel- 
opment are more illuminating than the function played 
m various generations by legendary processes and the 
reaction of different groups of men toward mistaken 
traditional conceptions. 

The "historical" rather than the "real" Constantine, 
however, must be our point of departure. Even in fields 
where vast funds of original sources of information are 
at hand and where an enormous amount of critical work 
has been done, it is presumptuous to claim knowledge 
of men and of facts as they would appear to the eyes of 
omniscience. The best that we can do under the most 
favorable circumstances is to approximate toward the 
real men and the real facts ; between us and them there 
always remains a margin of ignorance, if not of error, 
which we may well call the '* historical equation/' This 
does not mean that we are left with merely " lies agreed 
upon/' for modern scientific methods are rigorous guides 
toward the truth, and though lies remain, even the most 
superficial reader knows how far historians are from 
agreeing upon them. In discussing men of the fourth 
century, however, it must be admitted that anything like 
complete truth seems unattainable. Information on most 
important points often fails us entirely, and, as will be 
seen, much information that we possess is open to grave 
suspicion. Yet with reference to Constantine, it can be 
said that we possess a mass of evidence which has been 
made available in critical editions of sources, and which 

l Cf. Dunning: "Truth in History." American Historical Review, 
xxix (1914), pp. 217-229. The point is that primary importance often 
attaches not so much to what happened, as to what later ages believed 
to have happened. 



is being augmented and sifted to such an extent that a 
reliable historical discussion of his religious position is 
possible. This I attempt to give in Part One. 

Legends about Constantine have for the most part 
been approached from a mistaken point of view. They 
have been used by some as reliable sources and by others 
have been scornfully rejected as not worth consideration. 
Both attitudes are wrong. 

The time has passed for the kind of * history that is 
made up of unsupported traditions or that fills in its 
vacant spaces and obscure origins with untested stories. 
Legend usually throws little light upon the actual course 
of events, and what light it does throw is generally mis- 
leading, so that in reconstructing the past the investi- 
gator often does well to ignore it entirely unless he has 
some test by which to sort out its genuine basis from its 
fable. Instead of trying to sift out truth from error by 
making allowances for probable distortions, he usually 
does better if he looks for other sources of information 
in documents, in monuments and in traces of earlier 
conditions surviving in later institutions. Scientific re- 
search has not only destroyed mistaken legends, but has 
been able to displace so many of these by more reliable 
facts that the validity of this method can no longer be 

But though legendary history is doomed, the history 
of the legend remains. The story it contains may not 
throw much light upon the subject about which it has 
grown up, but it reveals the working of the minds of the 
people who consciously or unconsciously created it. A 
legend may often be the most direct approach to the 
spirit of the time in which it gained currency, and the 
clearest illustration of its ideals and its modes of thought. 
Its deviation from historical fact is here the most im- 
portant thing about it. 



After the legend becomes crystallized its history is 
significant. The most obvious value is the influence 
which it exercises where it is accepted. For an accepted 
legend has just as much influence as an accepted histor- 
ical truth. The mistaken belief of American statesmen 
about the boundaries of Louisiana determined their atti- 
tude toward the limitation of Florida and of Mexico 
precisely as if this belief were correct. Unfounded 
pagan stories about the early Christians, and unfounded 
Christian stories about the Jews, had all the potency of 
verified facts. 

A less obvious, but an important value of the history 
of a crystallized legend attaches to the attitude taken 
toward it by those whom their generation esteems its 
scholars. Their acceptance or rejection of it, the tests 
they apply to it, and the way in which they fit it into 
their general fund of knowledge shows vividly the intel- 
lectual level of their age. A wide study of legends would 
be one of the most illuminating chapters in the history 
of history. Part Two, dealing with legends about Con- 
stantine, is an attempt to contribute to this end. 

The Donation of Constantine takes us into the study 
of a different field of intellectual activity. Legends are 
the spontaneous creation of man's fancy. They are often 
the echo of his own deepest convictions and highest 
ideals projected into the past and coming back to him 
as the voices of the dead. But not all the men of the 
Middle Ages were satisfied to let their imagination play- 
about the tomb of the first Christian emperor. They 
brought him at length out of his grave and put into his 
mouth a legal grant of vast powers to the Roman Church 
and the Roman bishop. Perhaps in the mind of the 
forger this was not an essentially different act from the 
earlier legendary processes* Scheffer-Boichorst argues 


that his chief motive was the glorification of Constantme 
and Pope Sylvester, to whom the grant was assumed to 
be made. 1 The late Doctor Hodgkin even suggested, 
hesitatingly, that the Donation might have been originally 
composed as an exercise in romancing. 3 /But in form at 
least it was plainly a forgery, and even in the eighth and 
ninth centuries such forgeries were punishable with 
death. 3 It was taken seriously and generally accepted 
as a legal document for nearly six hundred yea^, It 
filled so large a place in the thought of Europe that we 
can justly call it the most famous forgery in history. 
Dr. Hodgkin even goes so far as to say, " The story of 
the Donation of Constantine fully told would almost be 
the history of the Middle Ages." * 

On the other hand, the unravelling of this skein of 
forgery is one of the most interesting phases of the de- 
velopment of the modern scientific spirit. The proof 
advanced by Lorenzo Valla that the document was spur- 
ious constitutes in the Renaissance an event emphasized 
by many writers. In more recent times discussion of 
various problems connected with the forgery has engaged 
the energy of many of the foremost historians of Italy, 
France, England, and especially of Germany, and has 
produced an extensive and important historical literature. 
A careful and systematic study of this whole develop- 
ment, such as is attempted in the following pages in 
Part Three, will throw considerable light upon the 
workings of both the medieval and the modern mind. 

l Cf. infra, p, 211 et seq. 

* Italy and Her Invaders, vol. vn., (1899) P- 135 ** seq, 
*C/. Brunner: Das Conslitutum Constantini, in Festgabe fur Rutiolf 
von Gneist y pp. 34-35. 
4 Op. V.,,vii , p. 135- 





WHAT was the precise part of Constantine in the revo- 
lution by which Christianity became the dominant re- 
ligion of European civilization? The question and its 
answer have many ramifications. Of little importance 
for us is the much-discussed matter of the sincerity of 
his motives. Plausible motives are easily manufactured 
to fit any point of view and aid immensely in the con- 
struction of an interesting, consistent narrative; but the 
purposes actually controlling a man's conduct are often 
obscure to himself and, save by means of self-rev- 
elation, not often ascertainable by others. Only novelists 
may postulate a set of motives and develop conduct 
accordingly; the historian may infer them, but he is 
not at liberty to reconstruct the course of events upon 
such inferences. The important questions are really 
those of conduct and of public influence, and these 
are matters of record and of fact. If the public policy 
of Constantine and the course of his religious life, so far 
as it was in the open, can be ascertained, we shall know 
all that is here essential. And this knowledge will take 
us to the very heart of the reciprocal process by which 
the Roman Empire assumed Christianity, and the Church 
assumed, so far as in it lay, the control of the future of 

Both phases of this process seem at first sight utterly 
revolutionary. Under Constantine's immediate prede- 
17] 17 


cessors the Roman government bent itself to the task 
of exterminating Christianity as an alien and hostile 
power. Under him and his immediate successors the 
resources of the state were often put at the disposal of 
the church. The empire, in addition to its already 
crushing burdens, took up the support of the church 
and made itself the vehicle upon which the once perse- 
cuted religion rode in triumph to its task of establishing" 
the " City of God " upon the earth. The church pre- 
sents an equally startling contrast in its progress. Not 
long before this the disciples of Jesus had been a power- 
less minority, under the control of a political and social 
system which outraged their religion. Most of them, in 
the first days in Palestine, and afterwards for several 
generations, saw no outcome for the hopeless conflict of 
the new life with the old order except in some great 
cataclysm in which the existing world-order itself should 
be utterly destroyed and Christ should reign with his 
saints in a new heaven and a new earth. In the third 
century they still thought of their hope and their true 
citizenship as in heaven, for this world seemed hopelessly 
hostile and evil. Within a single generation, however, 
this was, for the leading churchmen, all changed. "A 
new and fresh era of existence had begun to appear and 
a light hitherto unknown suddenly to dawn from the 
midst of darkness on the human race." 1 When that 
apparent impossibility, a Christian emperor, came upon 
the scene, and invited into his council-chamber bishops 
who bore upon their bodies the marks of jail and tor- 
ture, at least one of those present thought " that a pic- 
ture of Christ's kingdom was thus shadowed forth." 3 
While the future heaven has never passed out of the 

1 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, in, i. 
*Ibid. t lii, 15. 


thought of the church, this shadowing forth of it upon 
earth speedily absorbed the energy of a large proportion 
of churchmen. The world was no longer hopelessly 
hostile ; the church was at home in it, and contemplation 
of the speedy and hoped-for destruction of the earth 
gave place to an age-long struggle to control and gov- 
ern it in the name of him whom it had once crucified. 

This double transformation, one of the greatest in the 
history of the world, was, however, wrought by forces 
which can be, to a large extent, historically analyzed and 
estimated. Many of them had long been working slowly 
and almost imperceptibly. They converged in Con- 
stantine, and it is this that gives importance to the ques- 
tion of the part he had in them. His career is an illus- 
tration of the process, and his reign marks its crisis 
It is of great importance, therefore, to find out, so far as 
the emperor was concerned, how the government ac- 
cepted Christianity and how Christians accepted the 
governance of the world. 

The answer to these questions is not ready at hand. 
There is, to be sure, much material, and most of it has 
been critically examined from one point of view or 
another. Literature upon Constantine has been almost 
steadily produced ever since the beginning of his reign, 
and has been recently stimulated by various official cele- 
brations of the sixteenth centennial (1913) of the Edict, 
or Rescript, of Milan. The main facts of his career seem 
fairly well established, but historical complacency is 
always subject to jolts such as that received from Otto 
Seeck's attempt in 1891 to prove that there had never 
been any Edict of Milan. The prevailing views of Con- 
stantine's religious position, developed out of many 
variant opinions and considerable controversy, must still 
be held subject to review and revision. 


Until modern times historians generally accepted as 
an established fact that he openly and sincerely professed 
Christianity from the time of his victory over Maxentius 
(312) . Gibbon, in " The Decline and Fall of the Roman 
Empire" looked upon him as a supporter of the church, 
and thought that his conversion may perhaps have been 
genuine. 1 Niebuhr, however, saw in Constantine a "re- 
pulsive phenomenon " of mingled paganism and Christi- 
anity, a superstitious man pursuing his own selfish ends. 2 
Burckhardt in "Die Zeit Constantins der Grossen" an 
epoch-making work and for years the standard life of 
Constantine, started with the bold (and unhistorical) 
proposition that "in the case of a man of genius, to 
whom ambition and desire for mastery give no rest, 
there can be no question of Christianity or paganism ; 
such a man is essentially unreligious/' 3 He even char- 
acterized Constantine as a " murdering egoist," and 
ascribes to him as his only religion, a belief in his own 
conquering genius. His laws accordingly were held to 
indicate not even a desire to advance the interests of 
Christianity, but only his use of that religion as part of 
the political machinery of the empire. 

After Burckhardt, the tendency ran strongly toward 
acceptance of the view that Constantine professed to 
adopt Christianity for political motives and used it for 
political purposes, but did not commit either himself or 
the empire to it. Theodor Keim 4 while contending that 
Constantine was affected somewhat by Christianity and 

1 Chap. xx. 

* Lectures on the History of Rome. Third ed., Eng trans., 1853, ni, 
p. 318. 

3 P. 369 (this work appeared first in 1853), 

* Der Uebertritt Constantins des Grossen zum Christenthum, 1862. 

2 1 ] THE PROBLEM 2 x 

came out openly as a Christian at the end x interpreted 
his official actions as hedging between paganism and 
Christianity. Theodor Zahn 2 pictured him as champion 
of a vague monotheism, not specifically Christian, till his 
contest with Licinius, thereafter he was definitely Chris- 
tian. Marquardt 3 affirmed that Constantine erected 
heathen temples in Constantinople and that he never 
broke with Roman religious traditions ; it was uncertain 
whether he ever was a Christian. Brieger 4 inferred from 
Constantine's coinage and other records that he had a 
sort of Christian superstition which yet did not supplant 
his original heathen ideas. Victor Duruy 5 found Con- 
stantine's emblems and religious deliverances ambiguous, 
and the emperor's actions the result of calculation, not 
of religious conviction or even preference. Herman 
Schiller 6 endeavored to prove a gradual favoring of 
Christianity at least to the extent of putting it on a legal 
level with the old paganism, and concluded that Con- 
stantine's policy was to form an official religion balanc- 
ing the better elements of pagan monotheism with Chris- 

1 Keim rendered the phrase with which Constantine prefaced the an- 
nouncement of his decision to be baptized, as given by Eusebius in his 
Ltfe of Constantine (iv, 62), "let all duplicity be banished," thus im- 
plying that the emperor had previously been two-faced The Greek 
term used, afufrtpoMa, means merely doubt, or uncertainty, and Eusebius, 
of all men, would not have implied any hypocrisy on the emperor's 

* Constantin der Grosse und die Kirche, 1876. 

*Romische Staatsverwaltung (1878), iii, 113. 

4 Constantm der Grosse als Rehgionspohtiker, Zeitschrift fur Ktr- 
chengeschickte iv (1880), u, 163. 

5 Histoire des JRowcnns, 1870 and later, vol. vii, p 127 ff , "Les 
Premieres annees du regne de Constantm" in Compte rendu de 
VAcademie des Sc^ences morales et pohtiques, xvi, 737-765 (1881), and 
"La politique religieuse de Constantm," tdid., xvii, 185-227 (18 
and Revue archaeologique, xhii, 96-110, 155-175 (1882). 

6 Geschtchte der romischen Kaiserzeit, 1883-7. 


tianity. Victor Schultze, z Grisar, 2 and G. Boissiers de- 
fended his essential Christianity. 

The remarkable work of O. Seeck, 4 which has almost 
superseded earlier writings on the subject, has at length 
reshaped historical opinion about Constantme. Seeck's 
conclusion, from a most exhaustive study of all the sources, 
is that Constantine was favorably inclined to Christianity 
from the first, that he was definitely converted to adher- 
ence to the God of the Christians as his patron and luck- 
bringer during the campaign against Maxentius s and that 
thereafter he supported the Christian church even to the 
point of subserviency, and introduced Christianity as the 
state religion so far as conditions permitted. In many of 
his contentions Seeck has been vigorously attacked by F. 
Gorres 6 and others, yet he and Schultze have exer- 
cised dominant influence and have been very generally 
followed. 7 Duchesne 8 looks upon Constantine as a gen- 

1 Geschichte des Untergangs des gnechischen rovnschen Heidentums^ 

* " Die vorgeblichen Beweise gegen die Chnsthchkeit Constantms des 
Grossen ", in Zeitschnft fur katholische Theologie vi (1882) 585-607. 

s " Essais d'histoire religieuse" in Revue des deux Mondes July 1886 
pp. 51-72, "La Fin du Pagamsnie " (1891). 

^Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt 1895 et seq., second 
edition 1897 et seq., third edition 1910 et seq.> and numerous articles in 
historical reviews, especially in Zeitsch. f. K G. 5 3i2 A D. 

*Zeitschrift fur wissenschafthche Theologie (1892), p. 282 et seq. 

T Eg , J B. Bury in his edition of Gibbon : Dechne and Fall of the 
Roman Emp^re (1896), vol. 11, append. 19, pp. 566-568; W. K Boyd: 
The Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Theodosian Code, Columbia University 
Studies in History, Economics and Public Law vol. xxiv (1905), pp 
16-21. An interesting illustration of this transformation of historical 
opinion is seen in the revision of current text-books for ancient history 
in line with Seecks' contentions. Cf. G. W Botsford : Ancient History 
for Beginners (1902), pp. 422-43, and his History of the Ancient World 
(1913), PP 514-515. 

8 Histoire anctenne de VEglise> vol. 11, English trans. (1912), pp. 
45-71. The first edition was dated 1905. 


uine convert and patron of the church. Ludwig Wrzol ' 
emphasizes Constantine's ascription of victory-giving 
power to the Christian God and looks upon most of the 
emperor's actions after the battle at the Milvian bridge as 
an expression of his desire to be on the right side of this 
power. Ed. Schwartz 2 finds in him sincere attachment 
to Christianity in its organized form, but far from admit- 
ting his subserviency to the Christian bishops which Seeck 
describes, he pictures Constantine as the ambitious seeker 
of supreme power and dominating master of the church. 
In the first proposition he is thus m agreement with 
Seeck, but in the latter with Burckhardt. One recent 
writer 3 turns against the present tendency, to substantial 
agreement with Burckhardt's view of the emperor's char- 
acter and describes him as utterly irreligious and taking 
up with Christianity for merely political purposes. But 
in this Geffcken stands almost alone. On the other 
hand, the contributors to the most pretentious of the 
books called out by the centennial of the Edict of Milan, 
Konstantin der Grosse und seine Zeitf reproduce in 
large part that view of the relations of Constantine and 
the church most favorable to both. 5 

While, as has been said, the mam facts of Constantine's 
career now seem clear, the very bulk of this literature, 
as well as the differences and contradictions it expresses, 

1 Konstantins des Grossen personhche Stellung zum Christentwm. 
Wetdenauer Studzen, I (1906), pp. 227-269. 

* Kaiser Constantin und die christliche Kirche (1913). 

1 Johs. Geffcken, Aus der Werdezeit des Chnstentums (1904), p. 97 
et seq. 

* Edited by F. J. Dolger, 1913. 

8 For other recent discussions see Gwatkm in Cambridge Medieval 
History, vol. i (1911) p. 10 et seq., and J. B. Carter: The Religious. 
Life of Ancient Rome (1911), p. 117 et seq. 


calls for a general restatement of his attitude in religious 
matters, and for a revaluation of its significance. Such 
restatement must take into account the knowledge which 
recent years have brought of the general religious con- 
dition of Constantme's times. It is possible only on the 
basis of an examination of all the original evidence. 
And in this the emphasis must be put "upon legal and 
monumental sources, such as are contained in the Theo- 
dosian Code and in coins and inscriptions ; for, as will 
be shown later, the writers of the fourth century had 
little comprehension of pure historical truth and less de- 
votion to it. Partisanship, eulogy, and defamation were 
all too common, and these were then, as now, more apt 
to create legends than to produce adequate appreciation 
of men and events. 



I. Legislation* 

CONSTANTINE was a voluminous law-maker ; fragments 
of nearly 300 of his laws are in existence, and we have 
information about others issued and now lost. 8 He was 
not a systematic nor a careful legislator ; many of his laws 
are not clear, many are trivial, and many are badly ex- 

*For various phases of this subject cf. Seeck's discussion of Con- 
stantine's laws in Zeitschnft der Savigny Stiftung fur Rechtsge- 
schichte, Romamsche Abteilung, x, p. I et seq., p 177^ seq. Also 
Boyd, op. at. 

Many of Constantine's laws, but by no means all that are extant, are 
printed in Migne. J. P., Patrologiae Cursus Completus Series Latino, 
vin, cols. 93-400. Most of the extant ones have been preserved 
in the Theodosian Code and the Constitution of Sirmondi printed with 
it. Many not found elsewhere, as well as some duplications, are given 
in Eusebius' Church History and in his Life of Constantine. Many 
of these latter, however, are questioned, cf. infra, pp. 38, 109. Some 
laws are found in Augustine's writings against the Donatists, and 
others are referred to by Jerome and other ecclesiastical writers. 

Under the title of Legislation I have included rescripts (rescripta) as. 
well as edicts (edicta, decreta). Strictly speaking, rescripts were 
answers to inquiries. They were cited as decisions, rather than as leg- 
islation. Constantine seems to have begun the custom of issuing laws 
in rescript form, i. e., in letters to praefects. Seeck dates the custom 
from December i, 318. Cf. op. tit., x, pp. 199, 221 

A number of Constantine's laws bearing on Christianity are trans- 
lated in Ayer, J. C., Jr., A Source Book tor Ancient Church History 
(New York, 1913), pp. 263-265, 277-296. 

1 Cf. Seeck, Untergang der antiken Welt, i, 54. 

25] 25 


pressed. Decadence of legal style had already set in by 
his time. 

The laws of Constantine show a progressively favor- 
able attitude toward the Christians. None of his legis- 
lation while he was in control of Gaul and Britain alone 
has come down to us except references to his religious 
toleration. While he ruled the entire West, but not the 
East (that is, from his victory over Maxentius in 312 till 
his victory over Licinms in 323) his legislation involved 
complete toleration towards Christians, and, in general, 
establishment of equality between Christianity and 
paganism. After he became sole emperor, that is from 
324 to his death in 337, his legislation became more 
definitely Christian and anti-pagan. 1 Seeck, who main- 
tains Constantine's complete adherence to Christianity 
after 312, recognizes this distinction. 2 A somewhat 
detailed analysis of the two periods, 312-323 and 323- 
336, is necessary to a full knowledge of the facts. 

Before the final victory over Licinius (323) we have 
no direct legislation against essential pagan institutions. 3 
Legislation friendly to the Christians, however, is in 
evidence from the time of the victory over Maxentius 
(312). Very soon after that event Constantine and 
Licinius, doubtless at the initiative of the former, reached 
an agreement at Milan to establish general and complete 
religious toleration, and issued a comprehensive edict or 
rescript to that effect, specifically putting Christianity 

x Cf Bury's summary of Schiller's description of Constantine's laws 
in Gibbon, Dechne and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. Bury, vol. li, 
P. 567. 

*He ascribes the absence of a more positively Christian attitude in 
the earlier legislation to motives of policy. 

1 For legislation limiting magic and the consulting of haruspices, cf* 
tnfra, pp. 35-36. 


on a level with oflier legal religions. 1 This is the famous 
and lately controverted Edict of Milan. The contro- 
versy was begun in 1891 by O. Seeck, who denied that 
the document given by Lactantius and by Eusebius was 
in any respect the work of Constantine, that it was 
issued from Milan, or that it was an imperial edict. 2 He 
maintained that these authors gave merely copies of a 
rescript issued by Licinius after his victory over Maxi- 
minus (or Maximin) Daza, probably as soon as he 
entered Nicomedia, the capital of the first conquered 
province, reinstating and enforcing the Edict of Tolera- 
tion of Galerius (311) which Maximinus had not ob- 
served. There would thus be only one edict of tolera- 
tion, that putting an end to the Diocletian persecution ; 
and this reissue of it should be called simply the Rescript 
of Nicomedia. Seeck supported his opinion by argu- 
ments drawn from the informality of the so-called edict, 
from the chronological difficulty involved in the accepted 
account, and from the reference, "all conditions being 
entirely left out which were contained in our former 
letter/' etc. ("quare scire dignationem tuam convenit 
* * * placuisse nobis ut amotis omnibus omnino con- 
ditionibus * * * contendant). Seeck's article was an- 
swered by F. Gorres and by Crivelluci. 3 The former's 

1 Etisebius, Church Htstory, ix, g, 12. Our knowledge of its provis- 
ions is obtained from two documents, Lactantius, De Morhbus perse- 
cutoru,in> xlvm, and Eusebius, op. cit , x, 5, 2-14. Each of these has 
its champions as a copy of the original rescript, and by others both are 
denied that rank. 

1 " Das sogennante Edikt von Mailand, " in Zettschnft fur Kirchen- 
gesch%chte, xii, p. 381 et seq In his later Geschnchte des Untergangs 
der Ant^ken Welt, he assumed that he had proved his point and merely 
remarked in a note that he had not spoken of the Edict of Milan because 
in his opinion such an edict never existed. Vol. i (Anhang), p. 495. 
(Berlin, 1897). 

*The former in Zeitsch* f. wissenschafthchc Theol , xxxv (1892), pp. 
282-95? the latter in Stud* storic^, i, p. 239 et seq. 


answer consists largely of ridicule and invective, inter- 
spersed freely with exclamation points, but he rightly 
emphasizes the obvious fact that there are essential 
differences between the Edict of Galerius and this later 
edict or letter, the former being polytheistic in tone and 
giving bare toleration to the Christians, whereas the 
latter is rather monotheistic and provides for a large 
measure of general religious liberty together with res- 
toration of confiscated Christian property to its former 
owners. The original edict of Milan he thinks has been 
lost, but Eusebius and Lactantius reproduce it in giving 
respectively a translation and a copy of rescripts pub- 
lished by Licinius in their provinces. The latter writer 
also maintains that there was an edict of Milan. 

The ablest discussion of the question is that by Her- 
mann Hulle. 1 He accepts an edict of Milan but limits it 
to complete religious toleration and ascribes the policy 
of restitution of Christian property to later rescripts, 
such as that of Constantme to Anulinus in Africa. In 
his opinion Lactantius probably gives a rescript issued 
afterwards by Licinius for Bithynia, and Eusebius, a later 
Palestinian version of this, both being amplifications and 
extensions of the brief Milan edict. Valerian Sesan 2 
argues at great length that Eusebius gives a Greek 
translation of the original rescript of Milan, and Lac- 
tantius a form of it issued by Licinius from Nikomedia. 
He holds, however, the untenable ground that both 
allude to a lost edict of Constantine's dating from 312. 

1 Die Toleranzerlasse romischer Kcnser fur das Chnstentum, (Berlin, 
1895), pp. 80-106. The same conclusions are reached by V, Schultze in 
the articles on Constantme in the Real- Enzyklopddie fur protestant^sche 
Theologie und Kvrche, x, 757-773 (1901). 

l Kirche und Staat im romisch-byzantimschen Reiche seit Konstantin 
dem Grossen und bis zum Falle Konstantinopels, vol. i (IQII), pp- 


Another investigator, Joseph Wittig, 1 arrives independ- 
ently at the same general conclusions as Sesan, combat- 
ing, however, the assumption of a lost edict of 312. 

The meeting of Constantine and Licmius at Milan in 
313 and the promulgation there of an edict or rescript of 
religious toleration are established by adequate evidence 
beyond reasonable doubt. Lactantius undoubtedly gives, 
according to his own statement, not this original edict, 
but a rescript of Licinius' based upon it and issued at 
Nicomedia. I cannot see in the arguments of Sesan and 
Wittig sufficient reason for putting Eusebius' version 
upon a different basis from that of Lactantius and call- 
ing it a translation of the original Milan edict. 2 More 
probably Eusebius gave the version of the rescript 
which was published in his part of the Empire. How 
far this rescript reproduces the edict or rescript of Milan 
it is impossible to say. Hiille's limitation of the latter 
to religious toleration seems not altogether warranted. 
It probably not only ordered the recognition of Christi- 
anity on exactly the same standing as to toleration as 
that of the established religions, and not only involved 

1 " Das Toleranzreskript von Mailand 313," in Konst<lnt^n der Grosse 
und stone Zeit, ed. Franz J Dolger (1913), pp. 40-65. 

2 Wittig' s comparison of differences between the texts is specious 
rather than convincing. E.g., where Eusebius is briefer, this proves 
his form to be the original ; where he is lengthier, this proves that 
Lactantius condensed. Where Lactantius represents Licinius as using 
phrases less vaguely monotheistic and more specifically Christian than 
Eusebius gives, this shows that Licinius, not being a Christian (cf. Eu- 
sebius x, 5,4-5, and Lactantius xlvin,4-5), was eager to proclaim his vol- 
untary recognition of Constantine' s god, so as to avoid the reproach of 
being overborn by Constantine ! The omission of an introductory sec- 
tion m Lactantius and of the possessive pronoun where Eusebius' ver- 
sion cites former orders as " our former letters " maybe significant but 
furnishes no argument for Wittig' s position (cf. Eusebius x, 5, 2-3, 
omitted m Lactantius; cf. Eusebius, 6 and Lactantius, \ 6). 


the principle of religious liberty, but also directed 
the restoration of church property which had been 
confiscated from the Christians. 1 The rescript given 
by Lactantms differs in a number of places from 
the translation given by Eusebius, but both are mono- 
theistic in tone, the latter rather more vaguely so than 
the former. What could be more vague than the phrase 
quoted by Eusebius, "that so whatever divine and 
heavenly power there is may be propitious to us " 

ri nore kcri, OeioTijTog KOL ovpaviov TrpdyparoG, J)[di> . evuevec elvai 

for Lactantius' " quo quidem divinitas in sede 
coelesti nobis . . . propitia possit existere")? 2 Both 
versions concur m ascribing the previous success of the 
rulers to divine aid and in assigning as the motive of 
the law desire for continuance of divine favor. " So 
shall that divine favor which, in affairs of the mightiest 
importance, we have already experienced, continue to 
give success to us, and in our successes make the com- 
monwealth happy. " 3 These may well have characterized 
the original edict or rescript and have represented Con- 
stantine's religious status in 313, for his influence, rather 
than that of Licinius, must in this have been dominant. 

The policies of complete religious toleration and of the 
restoration to Christians of their property formerly con- 
fiscated were in any case adopted by Constantine soon 
after he became sole emperor in the west. Eusebius 
places immediately after the rescript discussed above, a 
rescript to Anulinus in Africa, ordering the immediate 
restoration to the Catholic church of all property which 
had been confiscated from it. 4 This rescript makes no 

1 Cf. Eusebius, Life of Constanhne, i, 14. 

3 Eusebius, Church History x, 5, 4. Laclantius, op. tit., xlvni, 4. 
'Eusebius, op. tit., x, 5, 13. Cf. Lactantius, op. cii. t xlvni, 13. 

4 Eusebius, op. cit., x, 5, 15-17. 


provision for the compensation of the purchasers and 
holders of this property, whereas both the Eusebian and 
the Lactantian version of the rescript of Licinius pro- 
vide for the compensation from the public treasury of legal 
holders of confiscated Christian property. The rescript 
to Anulinus is generally supposed to have been issued 
after the edict of Milan, but Wittig argues plausibly that 
it antedated the latter and represents a less matured plan 
of dealing with the problem. 1 If so, whether at Milan 
or elsewhere, Constantme soon provided for reimburs- 
ing the losers, for he was always very free with public 

Among the laws which Constantme issued between 313 
and 323 in favor of the church, beyond complete tolera- 
tion, the following may be noted. 

The clergy were exempted from all state contributions. * 
How substantial this concession was may be seen from 
the rush which ensued toward the clerical status. It 
was so great that by 320 another edict was issued limiting 
entrance to the clergy to those classes whose exemption 
would not make much difference either to the state or to 
themselves. This was not retroactive and did not dis- 
turb those who were already clerics. 3 Great as was the 
concession however, it was not an exaltation of Christi- 
anity above other religions, for such exemptions were 
commonly made to priests of acknowledged religions. 

^.a*., pp. 51,52. 

3 Codex Theodosianus, xvi,2,2(3ig) . ' ' Qui divino cultui mimsteria re- 
ligionis impendunt, id est hi, qui clenci appelantur, ab omnibus omnmo 
mttneribus excusentur, ne sacrilege livore quorundam a divinis obsequiis 
avocentur. " Cf. earlier letter of Constantine's instructing Anulinus to 
exempt the clergy of the Catholic church, over which Csecilian pre- 
sided, from public duties. Eusebms, Church History, x, 7. 

*Cod. Theod., xvi, 2, 3. (326) 


Constantine himself extended substantially the same ex- 
emptions to the patriarchs and elders of the Jews, to 
whom in general he was not friendly. I 

A law published soon after the victory over Maxentius 
shows Constantine to be interested in protecting the 
machinery and the routine of church life from annoyance 
at the hands of heretics, but more than a friendly inter- 
est of this sort can hardly be inferred from it. 2 

In 313 (or 315) the church was freed from "annona" 
and "tributum." In 320 the laws from the time of 
Augustus, disqualifying those not of near kinship who 
remained unmarried or childless from receiving inher- 
itances, were changed, probably in deference to the celi- 
bacy of the clergy, allowing celibates to inherit and re- 
leasing them from all penalties. 3 In 321 manumission in 
churches in the presence of the bishop and clergy was 
made legal and valid. 4 In 321 wills in favor of the Cath- 
olic church were permitted. 5 

Constantine's laws on Sunday are of great interest. 
In 3,21 he raised it to the rank of the old pagan holidays 
(feriae) by suspending the work of the courts and of the 

1 Cod Theod. xvi, 8, 2 (a. 330, Nov. 29) and 4 (Dec. i, 331). 

*Cod. Theod. xvi, 2, i (313 (?) Oct. 31). ' ' Haereticorum factione 
conpenmus ecclesiae cathohcae clencos ita vexan, ut nommationibus 
sen susceptiombus aliquibus, quas publicus mos exposcit, contra indulta 
sibi pnvilegia praegraventur. Ideoque placet, si quern tua gravitas m- 
venerit ita vexatum, eidem ahum subrogare et demceps a supra dictae 
rehgioms homimbus hujusmodi mjunas prohiben. " 

8 Cod. Theod. xi, i, i (June 17, 315) : viii, 16, I (Jan. 31, 320) ; 
Eusebms, Life of Constant me t iv, 26. 

* Cod. Theod. iv, 7, i, cf. Codex Justimanus , i, 13, 2. 

*Cod. Theod xvi, 2, 4 (321). "habeat unusquisque hcentiam sanctis- 
simo cathohcae [ecclesiae] venerabihque conciho, decedens bonorum 
quod optavit relinquere," etc. This recognizes the corporate character 
of the church. 


city population on that day, agricultural work, as was 
usual, being expressly excepted. * 

In June, of the same year, Constantine published an 
amendment to the law, keeping the way open for the 
manumission of slaves on Sunday. 2 

These laws are not positively Christian or pagan, nor are 
they necessarily ambiguous as to the emperor's religious 
position. The worship of the sun, "sol invictus" and 
the observance of Sunday were integral parts of Mithra- 
ism and the religion of the Great Mother generally. The 
laws, therefore, might have been issued by a worshipper 
of the sun. The designation of the day as the venerable 
day of the sun, "venerabtli d^e Solis" and "diem solis 
venerat^one sui celebrem" has sometimes been cited as 
proof of Constantine's seeking at the time to do honor 
to Mithras, or the sun. Such phrases, however, were 
common to Christians as well as to pagans. The orien- 
tal, probably at first Babylonian, system of a week of 
seven days, each named from a heavenly body, had very 
generally supplemented and even supplanted in popular 

l Cod. Just. 111, 12, 3. "Omnes judices, urbanaeque plebes, et 
cunctarum artmm officia venerabili die Sohs quiescant Run tamen 
positi agrorum culturae hbere licenterque inserviant : quoniam frequen- 
ter evenit, ut non aptrus alio die frumenta sulcis, aut vineae scrobibus 
mandentur, ne occasione momenti pereat commoditas coelesti provisi- 
one concessa." It is surprising that this law is not embodied in 
the Cod. Theod., as it is presupposed by the law of Constantine 
in Cod. Theod. n, 8, i . It may have been included and have been 
lost in the copies handed down to us. The supposition that it originally 
included non-Christian terras and was an expression of sun-worship 
and was therefore omitted from the Cod. Theod. occurs to one, but is 
without any support whatever. 

* Cod. Theod. 11, 8, i. " Sicut mdigmssimum videbatur diem solis 
veneratione sui celebrem altercantibus jurgiis et noxiis partium conten- 
tiombus occupari, ita gratum ac jucudum est eo die quae sunt maxlme 
votiva compleri. Atque ideo emancipandi et manumittendi die festo 
cuncti licentiam habeant et super his rebus acta non prohibeantur." 


use the cumbersome Roman numbering of days by kal- 
ends, nones and ides, long before this time. 1 Justin 
Martyr at Rome, in the second century, used the phrase, 
" day of the sun " in describing the worship of the Chris- 
tians on the first day of the week. 2 Tertullian in North 
Africa used it (dies soli's) in such a way as to show that 
it was commonly employed at the end of the second cen- 
tury. 3 No doubt the correct, specifically Christian usage 
was to refer to the first day of the week as the Lord's 
Day (dies Domini or dies dominicus), a usage still preva- 
lent in religious speech ; but the name of the sun was 
used very generally by the Christians for the first day of 
the week even though this heavenly body was a universal 
object of adoration among the heathen. Assuming that 
Constantine was a thoroughgoing Christian in 321, he 
would probably have proclaimed the day under the name 
of " dies so Us." 

The words " venerabili" and " veneratione sui celc- 
brem " might be construed as savoring of sun-worship, 
but they may refer as well to the worship which from a 
very early time characterized the Christian observance 
of the first day of the week. The second law with its 
emphatic approval of, and provision for manumission of 
slaves, certainly gives the whole piece of legislation 
the atmosphere of Christianity rather than of Mithraism. 

1 Cf. Zahn : Geschichte des Sonntags, pp. 25, 26, 60, 61 ; Mommsen, 
Ueber den Chronographer von 354, pp. 566, 568 ; Dio Cassius 37, 19* 
In various European languages the days of the week still perpetuate 
this oriental influence upon the West through Rome, though German 
gods and Christian sentiment have wrought some changes. The names 
of the days originally commemorated were, in order: Sun, Moon, Mars, 
Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. 

2 Apology i, 67. The phrase is used twice here. 

3 Apology ', xvi ; ad Natzones ', i, 13. 


Eusebius, in his Life of Constanhne* gives a long list of 
provisions enacted by Constantine for the most pious 
observance of Sunday, which are there given as spe- 
cifically Christian, though the prayer which he says was 
enforced on that day in the army was merely monothe- 
istic. Allowing for the edifying and eulogistic tone of 
this source, it seems more probable that Eusebius at 
most exaggerated the piety of the emperor than that he 
entirely distorted the object of that piety, and while much 
of the passage refers to the latter part of Constantme's 
reign, it unquestionably includes a summary of his first 
law on Sunday. Taken in connection with this and other 
evidence these laws seem to have been issued with espe- 
cial regard for the Christians. 

Constantine's laws on the subject of magic and divina- 
tion, mostly in this period of his legislation (312-323), 
give no decisive indication of his relation to Christianity. 
They show indeed his belief in the efficacy of these prac- 
tices. 2 It was only the private consulting of haruspices 
and the practice of magic arts against chastity or life, or 
for other harmful purposes that were forbidden. 3 Rites 

'iv, 18-20. 

a C/. Cod Theod. ix, 16, 3 (May 23, 321-324). The law of Dec. 17, 
320-321, Cod Theod xvi, 10, i, permits and even in some circum- 
stances encourages the public consultation of haruspices " Si quid de 
pal^tio nostro aut cetens operibus publicis degustatum fulgore esse con- 
stitent, retento more veteris observantiae quid portendat, ab haruspicibus 
requiratur et diligentissime scnbtura collecta ad nostram scientiam 
referatur; cetens etiam usurpandae hujus consuetudmis licentia trib- 
uenda, dummodo sacrifices domesticis abstineant, quae speciahter pro- 
hibita sunt. Earn autem denuntiationem adque interpretationem, quae 
de tactu amphitheatri scnbta est, de qua ad Heraclianum tnbunum et 
magistrum officiorum scribseras,ad nos. scias esse perlatam. " Cod. 
Theod. ix, 16, 3, shows belief that charms could affect the weather for 
the public benefit. 

1 Cod. Theod. ix, 16, i, 2 and 3 ; xvi, 10, i. 


whose object was to prevent disease and drought were 
not prohibited. 1 

But permission and even encouragement of superstitious 
rites for certain extraordinary occurrences do not show 
devotion to pagan religions and absence of any connec- 
tion with Christianity as some writers on Constantine 
have inferred. If they did, a large portion of the church 

1 Boyd : op. tit., p. 19 misses the mark when he says " As his pane- 
gyrist declares that Constantine fought Maxentms against the coun- 
sel of men, against the advice of the haruspices, this legislation [refer- 
ring especially to commands to collect and transmit to court the replies 
of the haruspices] does not signify a belief in the divinatory arts, rather 
an effort to forestall any attempt to make use of divination in any po- 
litical conspiracy against the fortunes of the Flavian family." The 
Anonymous panegyric (313) referred to (Migne : P L., vin col. 655, c. 
ii), in its "contra haruspicum momta" implies rather that Constantine 
consulted the augurs, but was not discouraged by an unfavorable answer, 
and the direction of the law in cases of public buildings struck by light- 
ning, "retento more veteris observantise, quis portendat, ab haruspici- 
bus requiretur " etc , refer to the observance of accepted practises Be- 
lief in the power of such practises was common among the Christians 
themselves: they merely asserted the superior magical power of Chris- 
tian observances. Cf. Lactantms, de Mori. Pers. chap, x 

It is barely possible that there may be a connection between the burn- 
ing of Diocletian's palace, at the beginning of the Diocletian persecu- 
tion, and Constantine's law in 321 (Cod. Theod. xvi, 10, i). Lactantms 
it will be remembered (de Mort. Pers< cxiv) says that Galerius hired 
emissaries to set the palace on fire and then laid the blame on the 
Christians as public enemies. In the Easter " Orahon of Constantine 
to the Assembly of the Saints' 1 reproduced by Eusebius, Constantine is 
reported as saying (chap. 25) that he was an eye-witness of the occur- 
ence, that the palace was consumed by lightning, and that Diocletian 
lived in constant fear of lightning. For an interesting note upon the 
beginning of the Diocletian persecution, which still remains obscure, 
see McGiffert in the Nicene and Post-N%cene Fathers, Series ii, Vol- 
ume i Eusebius, pp. 397-400 If, as Professor McGiffert suggests, there 
was a Christian conspiracy against Galerius, this might establish a 
connection iji Constantine's mind between lightning, haruspices, and 
plots such as Dr. Boyd assumes Otherwise, Constantine may have 
thought that as the Christian God sent lightning against Diocletian the 
pagan deities or demons might send lightning against him. 


would, in many different ages, have to be counted out of 

Judging from Constantme's legislation in the west 
discussed thus far, the inference would naturally be that 
he was friendly disposed toward Christianity, and sought 
to put it upon a full equality with former official religions 
of the empire. There was no effort to suppress pagan- 
ism, or even to make Christianity the one legal religion 
of the empire. 1 

But with his final conflict with Licinius and his victory 
in 3 2 3? 2 Constantine's legislation seems to become more 
specifically and completely Christian. A law of 323 ex- 
pressly forbade any attempt to force Christians to take 
part in pagan celebrations and gave redress for abuses of 
this sort. 3 

Several general statements of the greatest importance, 
chiefly covering the period 323-336, have come down to 
us from approximately Constantine's time, which if they 
could be accepted in full would leave no question but 
that Constantine accomplished a legal revolution, en- 
tirely substituting Christianity for paganism in Roman 
life. One, a law of Emperor Constans in 341 , 4 in pro- 

1 For a general summary of Constantme's laws in force in the west 
before the victory over Licinius and put in operation in the east at that 
time, from the pen of a Christian panegyrist, see Eusebius, Life of 
Constanttne, 11, 20 and 21. 

2 Or 324, according to Seeck. 

8 * ' Quoniam comperimus quosdam ecclesiasticos et ceteros cathohcae 
sectae servientes a diversarum rehgionum hominibus ad lustrorum sac- 
rificia celebranda compelh, hac sanctione sancimus, si qtus ad ritum 
ahenae superstitioms cogendos esse credident eos, qui sanctissimae legi 
serviunt, si conditio patiatur, pubhce fustibus verberetur, si vero hon- 
oris ratio talem ab eo repellat mjunam, condemnationem sustmeat 
damn! gravissimi, quod rebus pubhcis vmdicabitur." Cod. Theod^ xvi, 
2, 5 (May25, 323[?]). 

4 Cod. Theod. t xvi, 10, 2 "Cesset superstitio, sacnficiorum abo- 


hibiting sacrifices to the gods implies that Constantine 
had earlier made the same sweeping prohibition. If 
such an edict was issued, however, it has been lost. 
Jerome 1 tells of a law for the general destruction of 
pagan temples. This, too, if issued, has been entirely 
lost. Eusebius refers to many laws, which, if his state- 
ments are correct and his quotations genuine, would 
have put a legal end to many essential features of pagan- 
ism. 8 Victor Schultze 3 has ably defended these particu- 
lar summaries of Constantine's laws, but they cannot be 
taken as conclusive, in view of Eusebius' probable exag- 
gerations about laws which have been preserved 4 as well 
as in view of the general character of his Life of Con- 
stantine. Even the combined testimony of Constans' 
law, Jerome, and Eusebius cannot be accepted as final. 
It is contradicted by Libanius, 5 who goes so far as to 
say that Constantine did not at all change the legal re- 
ligion ; by Zosimus, 6 who says that Constantine tolerated 
heathen worship; by later exhortations of Christians 
asking for such laws ; 7 and by laws expressly allowing 

leatur insama. Nam quicumque contra legem divi pnncipis parentis 
nostn et hanc nostrae mansuetudinis jussionem ausus fuerit sacrificia 
celebrare, conpetens in eum vindicta et praesens sententia exeratur." 

1 Chronicle, under year 335* 

* Oration in Praise of Constantine ', 2; 8; 9. Life of Constantine, ii, 
44, 45, ni, 55-58, iv, 23; 25. 

'In Zeitsch f. K. C., vn (1885), p. 369 et seq. 

4 C/ Life of Constantine, iv, 18, with Constantme's actual law, Cod. 
Theod., ii, 8, i, and Cod. Just., iii, 12, 3; see above, p. 77. For in- 
stances, however, in which Eusebius' statements are confirmed by the 
laws which have come down to us, cf. Cod. Theod., vhi, 16, i, with 
Life of Constantine, iv, 26; Cod. Theod., iv, 4, 3, and ii, 24, I, and iv, 
4, i, with Life of Constantine, iv, 26, 5. 

6 Pro Temphs, ed. Reiske (1784). 

6 Roman History, ii, 29, 3. 

1 Eg., Firmianus, de Errore, p. 39. 


divination in the pagan temples. 1 These last may, of 
course, have been abrogated by later laws such as 
Eusebius and Jerome claim were issued, but there is no 
proof of it other than the partisan statements of those 

It seems clear, however, that though Constantine's 
later laws may not have gone to the extent assumed by 
Eusebius, Constans and Jerome, they show at least an 
anti-pagan tendency, in the light of which the statements 
of these three authorities must be interpreted as, at 
most, exaggerations and not utter misstatements. There 
seems to be no doubt that heathen temples suffered 
severely from adverse imperial influence; 2 and as early 
as 326, in a law looking toward the completion of old 
buildings before new ones were begun, it was expressly 
provided that temples might be left unfinished. 3 

Several long and rhetorical edicts of Constantine, 
notably the " Edict to the Inhabitants of the Province of 
Palestine," and the " Edict to the People of the Provinces 
concerning the Error of Polytheism" are given in Euse- 
bius' Life of Constantine, 4 both purporting to be "from 

1 Cod. Theod., xvi, 10, i (321); ix, 16, 2 and 3 (319). 

* Cf. infra, pp. 63-64. 

*Cod. Theod., xv, i, 3 (326 [362] June 29). " Provinciarum judices 
commoner! praecipimus, ut nihil se novi opens ordmare ante debere 
cognoscant, quam ea compleverint, quae a decessoribus inchoata sunt, 
exceptis dumtaxat templorum aedificationibus." 

*n, 24-42, and li, 48-60, respectively. These with the other docu- 
ments in this work were labeled forgeries by CrivelluccI, Mommsen, 
Peter, Burckhardt, Seeck and others Seeck later accepted them as 
genuine, chiefly on the ground that they are documents which would 
naturally be in Eusebius' chancery, and with the specific form of ad- 
dress which one would expect in copies sent to Caesarea in Palestine. 
Zeitsch. f. K. G. t xviii, (1898) p. 321 ei seq. They are held by Schultze: 
Z&tsch. f. K. G., xiv (1894), p 527 et seq., to be forgeries by a later 
hand than Eusebius', largely because (i) the former does not correspond 


authentic copies, the former with the emperor's signa- 
ture and the latter entirely in his own handwriting. If 
these are genuine they show that Constantme was at 
this time 1 a most zealous Christian, filled with mission- 
ary zeal, but determined not to use legal force in the 
conversion of pagans. 

Many laws were undoubtedly issued after 323 con- 
ferring special privileges upon Christian churches and 
Christian priests. 2 From all these special privileges 
heretics were expressly debarred. 3 Cities which became 

with what one would expect it to be from the context, n, 20-23; (2) the 
latter misstates Constantine's age (Constantme says he was a boy, ^. e. 
under 14, at the beginning of the Diocletian persecution m 303, which 
in spite of Seeck's contrary opinion seems impossible, cf. Eusebius, 
op cit., 11, 51; i, 8, i, (3) both contain many improbabilities, contra- 
dicting other information and other parts of Eusebius' writings, (4) 
both are of a nature and style foreign to imperial decrees. It is hard 
to see how they can safely be used as authoritative documents 

1 After his victory over Licinms. 

2 ' ' Neque vulgan consensu neque quibushbet petentibus sub specie 
clencorum a numenbus pubhcis vacatio deferatur, nee temere et citra 
modum popuh clencis connectantur, sed cum defunctus fuerit clericus, 
ad vicem defuncti alms allegetur, cui nulla ex mumcipibus prosapia 
fuerit neque ea est opulentia facultatum, quae pubhcas functiones facil- 
hme queat tolerare, ita ut, si inter crvitatem et clericos super ahcujus 
nomine dubitetur, si eum aequitas ad publica trahat obsequia, et pro- 
genie mumceps vel patrimonio idoneus dinoscetur, exemptus clencis 
civitati tradatur. Opulentos enim saeculi subire necessitates oportet, 
pauperes ecclesiarum divitiis sustentan." Cod. Tkeod., xvi, 2, 6 (June 
i, 326). 

*' Lectores divinorum apicum et hypodiacone cetenque clenci, qui 
per mjuriam haereticorum ad cunam devocati sunt, absolvantur et de 
cetero ad simihtudinem Onentis mmime ad curias devocentur, sed im- 
mumtate plemssima potiantur." Cod. Theod., xvi, 2, 7 (Feb. 5, 330). 

* " Pnvilegia, quae contemplatione religioms indulta sunt, cathohcae 
tantum legis observatiombus prodesse oportet. Haereticos autem atque 
schismaticos non solum ab his privileges alienos esse volumus, sed 
etiam diversis munenbus constnngi et subjici " Cod. Theod., xvi, 5, i 
(Sept. i, 326). 


exclusively Christian were granted special imperial 
favors z 

A law of 326, or about that year, conferred remarkable 
civil functions on the church organization, and marks 
one of the most important of the steps by which, in the 
Middle Ages, it came to dominate and overshadow the 
state. Litigants were allowed to bring suits before 
bishops and even to transfer them thither from the civil 
judges. The decision of the bishop was to be recognized 
by government officials as legal and binding. The law 
thus made the bishop a final court, open apparently to 
any one, whether Christian or not, who chose to cite his 
opponent before him. It not only gave legal authority 
to the judgment which ecclesiastical authorities might 
pronounce in quarrels between Christians, quarrels which, 
from the days of St. Paul they had been urged to keep 
within the church so as to avoid the scandal of suits in 
pagan courts, * but it went far beyond that. It created 
episcopal courts with far-reaching powers, parallel to, and 
independent of, the secular courts. It was a recognition 
of the church, fraught with tremendous consequences for 
the future. 3 

" Novatianos non adeo compenmus praedamnatos, uthis quae petive- 
runt crederemus minime largienda Itaque ecclesiae stiae domos et 
loca sepulcns apta sine inquietudine eos firmiter possidere praecipimus, 
ea scilicet, quae ex diuturno tempore vel ex empto habuerunt vel quali- 
bet quaesivenint ratione. Sane providendum ent, ne quid sibi usurpare 
conentur ex his, quae ante discidmm ad ecclesiae perpetuae sanctitatis 
pertmuisse manifestum est " Cod. Theod^ xvi, 5, 2 (Sept. 25, 326). 

1 Corpus Inscriptionum Latmarum, iii, 7000. Of. Eusebius, Life of 
Constantine, iv, 37-39. 

*i Cor., vi, 1-7. 

8 ' ' Judex pro sua sollicitudme observare debebit, ut, si ad episcopale 
judicium provocetur, silentmm accomodetur et, si quis ad legem Chris- 
tianam negotium transferre voluerit et illud judicium observare, audia- 
tur, etiamsi negotium apud judicem sit inchoatum, et pro sanctis 


A considerable body of humanitarian legislation shows 
probably an increasing Christian influence upon Con- 
stantine. 1 In his earlier rule in Gaul, though he was 
extolled by his heathen panegyrist, Eumenius, 2 as one so 

habeatur, quidquid ab his fuent judicatum: ita tamen, ne usurpetur in 
eo, ut unus ex litigantibus pergat ad supra dictum auditorium et arbit- 
num suum enuntiet. Judex enim praesentis causae mtegre habere 
dcbet arbitrmm, ut omnibus accepto latis pronuntiet " Cod Theod., i, 
27, i (June 23, * * *). This law of Constantme's, though the absence 
of one of the consuls' names leads to the year being omitted in the edi- 
tion of Mommsen and Meyer, must have been issued about 326, as it is 
dated at Constantinople, and Crispus was one of the consuls. The 
building of Constantinople could hardly have been begun much before 
this, and Crispus was executed that year. 

Cf. also Constitutions Sirmondianae for law of May 5, 333. " * * * 
Itaque quia a nobis mstrui voluisti, ohm promulgatae legis ordinem 
salubri rursus impeno propagamus Sanximus namque, sicut edicti 
nostri forma declarat, sententias episcoporum quohbet genere lalas sine 
aliqua aetatis discretione mviolatas semper incorruptasque servan; 
scilicet ut pro sanctis semper ac venerabilibus habeantur, quidquid 
episcoporum fuent sententia termmatum Sive itaque inter minores 
sive inter majores ab episcopis fuent judicatum, apud vos, qui judici- 
orum summam tenetis, et apud ceteros omnes judices ad exsecutionem 
volumus pertinere Quicumque itaque litem habens, sive possessor 
sive petitor vel inter initia litis vel decursis temporum curriculis, sive 
cum negotium peroratur, sive cum jam coepent promi sententia, judi- 
cmm elegent sacrosanctae legis antistitis, ihco sine aliqua dubitatione, 
etiamsi alia pars refragatur, ad episcopum personae htigantium dingan- 
tur. Multa enim, quae in judicio captiosa praescnptionis vmcula promi 
non patiuntur, mvestigat et pubhcat sacrosanctae rehgionis auctontas. 
Omnes itaque causae, quae vel praetono j'ure vel civili tractantur, epis- 
coporum sententius terminatae perpetuo stabilitatis jure firmentur, nee 
liceat ulterms retractan negotium, quod episcoporum sententia deci- 
derit. Testimomum etiam ab uno licet episcopo perhibitum omnis 
judex mdubitanter accipiat nee alms audiatur testis, cum testimonium 
episcopi a qualibet parte fuent repromissum/' etc. Cod, Theod., ed., 
Mommsen and Meyer, vol. i, part 2, pp. 907-908. 

x For other contributing factors, cf. A. C. McGiffert, " The Influence 
of Christianity on the Roman Empire," Harvard Theological Review , 
11, pp. 28-49 (Jan., 1909). 

3 In 310, Paneg., chap. 14, Migne: Patrolog%a Lat^nae, viii, col. 633 
(In Paneg. Vet. this is Paneg., no. vii). 


formed by nature and rearing that he could not be cruel, 
he is pictured as ending barbarian wars by the execution 
of captured kings and the wholesale destruction of pris- 
oners in gladiatorial shows. 1 In his later career, how- 
ever, he legislated against gladiatorial shows, 2 and in 
favor of better treatment of prisoners. 3 He also com- 
manded milder treatment of slaves than was customary 
in earlier laws, and encouraged their manumission. 4 
Branding of criminals, for instance, was to be upon the 
hand, so that the face, made in the image of heavenly 
beauty, should not be marred. In the laws of the years 
319 and 326, dealing with slavery, the distinction made 
between the death of a slave through cruelty and abuse 
and his death resulting from punishment of misconduct 
is the decisive note and an improvement over previous 
legislation, even though the law expressly exempted the 
master from penalty in the latter instance. 5 There were 
edicts issued also in favor of widows and orphans and 
the poor, 6 edicts encouraging the freeing of slaves, and 

l ldtd., chaps. 10, iij/^^z/tew^. (Treves, 313), chap. 23; in Migne, 
P. L., mi, col. 622 et seq.; 670-671 resp 

J " Cruenta spectacula in otio civili et domestica quiete non placet. 
Quapropter, qui omnino gladiatores esse prohibemus eos, qui forte 
delictorum causa hanc condicionem adqtie sententiam mereri consue- 
verant, metallo magis facies inservire, ut sine sanguine suorum scelerum 
poenas agnoscant." Cod. Theod., xv, 12, i (Oct. i, 325). Cf. Euse- 
bius, Life of Constantine, iv, 25. 

8 Cod. Theod., ix, 3, i (320); ix, 3, 2 (326), xi, 7, 3 (320). 

*Cod. Theod., n, 8, i (321); iv, 7, i (321); iv,8, 5 (322), and 6 (323). 

5 Cod. Tkeod., ix, 12, i (May n, 319); and 2 (April 18, 326). Cf. 
Seeck: Untergang, etc., i, 468, 478. 

6 Cod. Theod.,i 9 22,2 (June 17, 334); ni, 30, i (Mar. 26, 314); 2 (Feb. 
3, 3i6[323]); 3 (Mar. 15, 326); 4 (Aug. i, 331); 5 (April 18, 333); ix, 
21, 4 (May 4, 329); ix, 42, I (Feb. 27, 321). Cf. Eusebms, L^fe of 
Constantine, i, 43, 2; iv, 28. Athanasms Apologia contra Anum t 18. 


forbidding the exposing of children to get rid of 
them. 1 

Constantme also issued a number of laws against im- 
morality and immoral religious rites, laws providing for 
and regulating the punishment of adultery, and a law 
prohibiting the custom of concubinage, 2 at that time not 
generally condemned by public sentiment outside the 
church. These laws may reasonably be inferred to be 
in sympathy, at least, with the opinion of Christian 
leaders and advisers of the emperor. 

An interesting and apparently specifically Christian 
turn is found in some laws directed against the Jews. 
One edict early in Constantine's reign decrees that 
Jews or their elders or patriarchs who stone a convert 
to Christianity (ad Dei cultum) or otherwise maltreat 
him shall be burned, with all their associates in the act. 3 

1 Cod. Theod., v, 9, i (April 17, 331), xi, 27, i (May 13, 315), 2 (July 
6, 322). 

2 The law of 326 (de concub., Cod. Just., v, 26, i), forbids a man to 
have a concubine if his wife is alive. Cf. D. S Schaff, ' Concubinage " 
(Christian), in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, m, 817 (191 1). 
Ct. P. Meyer, Derrow&sche Konkubinat, (1895). 

Cod. Theod, i, 22, i (Jan. n, 316), 11,17, i (April 9, 321 [324]); 
rii, 16, i (331); iv, 6, 2 (April 29, 336) This law, however, was aimed 
especially at the illegitimate son of Licmius. iv, 6, 3 (July 21, 336); 8, 7 
(Feb. 28, 331); 12, i [== n, i Haenel] (April i, 314); 12, 4 [= n, 5 
Haenel] (Oct. 6, 331); ix, i, i (Dec. 4, 316-7); 7 2 (April 25, 326); 
8, i (April 4, 326 [?]); 9, i (May 29, 326); 24, i (April i, 320); 38, i 
(Oct. 30, 322); xn, i, 6 (July i, 319). 

s " Judaeis et majonbus eorum et patnarchis volumus mtiman, quod, 
si quis post hanc legem ahquem qui eorum feralem fugerit sectam et ad 
dei cultum respexent, saxis aut aho furons genere, quod nunc fieri cog- 
no vimus, ausus fuent adtemptare, mox flammis dedendus est et cum 
omnibus suis participibus concremandus i. Si quis vero ex populo ad 
eorum nefanam sectam accesserit et conciliabulis eorum se adphcavent, 
cum ipsis poenas mentas sustmebit." Cod. Theod., xvi, 8, i (Oct. 18, 

A later injunction against Jew s molesting in any way converts to 


Another law forbade a Jew to hold a Christian in 
servitude. 1 

Any fair summary of Constantine's legislation during 
the period of his sole emperorship, that is, during* the 
last thirteen years of his life, would show that it was 
more favorable to Christianity than his earlier legislation, 
and more alien to paganism. Much of it seems specific- 
ally Christian. None of Constantine's later laws justify 
the theory of Burckhardt, that to the last he remained 
disposed to balance favors to the Christians with con- 
cessions to the pagan element. The law quoted by 
Burckhardt in favor of certain sacerdotales and flamznes 
perpetui in Africa, seems merely to guarantee the contin- 
uance of their legal and social privileges even after they 
had ceased to perform any religious functions. 2 

2,. Coinage 

The extant coinage of Constantine is considerable, 
even after deducting a large number of spurious coins 
and medals. 3 Many of his coins bear pagan symbols and 

Christianity is given in Cod. Theod , xvi, 8, 5 (Oct. 22, 335), " Eum, 
qua ex Judaeo Christianas factus est, mquietare Judaeos non liceat vel 
aliqua pulsare injuria, pro qualitate commissi istmsmodi contumelia 
pumenda " 

1 Cod. Theod., xvi, 9, 1 (Oct. 21, 335) . Eusebius, Life of Constanhne, 
iv, 27. For another law directed toward the Jews, cf. Cod. Theod^ 
xvi, 8, 3 (Dec. n, 321). 

2 " Sacerdotales et flamines perpetuos atque etiam duumvirales ab 
annonarum praeposituris mferionbusque muneribus inniunes esse prae- 
cipimus. Quod tit perpetua observatione firmetur, legem hanc incisam 
aeneis tabulis jussimus pubhcare." Cod. Theod., xii, 5, 2 (May 21, 
337). Cf. Aurel. Victor, Caesars, 40. Cf. also, Schultze, Zeitsch. f. 
K. G.j vh, p. 369, where it is shown that men of these orders openly 
declared themselves in inscriptions to be Christians. 

*For full discussion see Jules Maurice, Numismatique Constantmi- 
enne, vol. i, 1908, still in progress, and H. Cohen: Description des 
Monnaies f rappees sous V Empire romatn, communement appelees 


inscriptions such as " Soli Invicti Comiti," though the 
estimate of these by Burckhardt x and others seems to be 
a gross exaggeration. "Hercules conservator/' "Mars 
conservator/' "Victoria/' and similar dedications occur 
more or less frequently. 2 The title " Pontifex Maximus " 
occasionally occurs, sometimes with a veiled figure repre- 
senting Constantine as such. But inferences from this must 
not be carried too far, for succeeding Christian emperors 
also bore the title. 

On the other hand some coins show Constantine look- 
ing up as if in prayer. 3 These coins first appear about 
325. They correspond in a general way with Eusebius' 
reference to them as tokens of the emperor's constant 
practice of prayer 4 and may be understood as an in- 
dication of Constantine's professed piety. 5 Coins and 
medals, one minted at Constantinople, with Constantine's 
name, and the reverse showing a veiled figure 4 in a four- 
horse chariot ascending toward a hand outstretched from 
above need not necessarily be taken as a reflection of 

Medailles vmperiales edited and continued by Feuardent, 8 vols., second 
ed., Paris, 1880-1892. For list of older discussions, cf. Richardson's 
bibliography v&^cene and Post-Nicene Fathers > second series, vol. i, p. 
445 et seq. For shorter discussions see Schiller: Geschichtederromzschen 
Kazserzett, vol. ii, 207, 219; O Seeck in Ze^1schr^ft fur Numtsmahk, xxi 
(1898), pp. 17-65, and Schultze in Z&tsch* f. K. G., xiv (1894), pp. 

! Zeit Const d. G., p. 371, "Soli Invicti Comiti " on four out of 

3 Gnsar, in Ze^tsch. f. Katk. TheoL, vi, p. 600 et seq., maintains that 
many of these figures generally assumed to be gods are mere personi- 
fications of Constantine's greatness and victories, and cites one of them 
which has on the reverse an indubitable Christian emblem. 

8 For prints of these see Cohen, op. cit., vii, pp. 240, 256, 311, 400. 

*Ltfe of Constantine, iv, 15. 

5 Schultze, in Zeitsch. /. K. ., xiv (1894), p. 504 et seq. 


Elijah's translation. 1 They may represent the apotheosis 
of the emperor, as similar coins are said to have been 
made for his father, Constantius, who was not a Chris- 

Schiller's t summary of Constantme's coinage is sug- 
gestive, and the gradual development which he finds 
seems justified, though his insistence upon the ambiguity 
of signs generally accepted as Christian betrays a strong 
bias in favor of his theory that Constantme tried to 
straddle between Christianity and paganism. He shows 
that in Constantine's western mints coins 2 appear with 
Mars, genius pop. Rom. and with Sol mvictus; that 
the first two ceased in 315 or earlier, and that the 
last disappeared, perhaps by 315, at any rate before 323. 
Coins with Juppiter stamped on them were not issued 
in the west but in the east from the mints of Licinius. 
Gradually non-commital legends, such as Beata tran- 
quillitas took the place of pagan inscriptions. Finally 
coins with the monogram > 3 were issued, and toward 
the end of Constantine's life series were issued showing 
soldiers bearing the labarum with this monogram. 

3. Inscriptions 

Two inscriptions have been the center of controversy 
in connection with Constantine's position in religious 
matters, one on his triumphal arch at Rome, and the 
other at a building in Hispellum. 

The middle panels of the attic, on both the north and 
the south side of the Arch of Constantine, above the 

1 See Schultze. 

z Roman imperial coinage usually bore a well-defined clue to the mint 
that put it out. 

3 In some instances this was a sign of the mint. For this sign, cf* 
tnfra, p. 77 et seq. 


central passageway, bear the following dedicatory in- 
scription : 


P . F . AVGVSTO . S . P . Q . R . 

or in full, modern form : 

" Imp(eratori) Caes(ari) F(lavio) Constantino Maximo 
P(io) F(elici) Augusto S(enatus) P(opulus) q(ue) 
R(omanus) quod instinctu divinitatis mentis magm- 
tudine cum exercitu suo tarn de tyranno quam de omni 
eius factione uno tempore iustis rempublicam ultus est 
armis arcum tnumphis insignem dicavit." This may be 
translated: "To the Emperor, Caesar Flavius Con- 
stantius Maximus, Pius, Felix, Augustus, inasmuch as 
by his divine inspiration and his great mind, with the 
help of his army, he has justly avenged the republic at 
the same time upon the tyrant and upon his entire party, 
the Senate and the Roman People do dedicate this arch 
notable for triumphs.'' 

This inscription, commemorating the victory over 
Maxentius (312^, is almost universally assigned to the 
year 315, the date of Constantine's assumption of the 
title Maximus. The arch is generally believed to have 
been erected between 312 and 315, in large part out of 
materials taken from other monumental works, especially 
from works of Trajan and other emperors of the second 
century. The theory that the arch was constructed in 
Trajan's time and worked over for Constantine's benefit 
has been advocated at various times. Strong arguments 
against this theory were advanced by such authorities as 


Bunsen * and Nibby. 2 De Rossi, also, who made a care- 
ful examination in 1863, when Napoleon III had plaster 
casts made of parts of the arch, reported that the dedi- 
catory inscription quoted above was carved in marble 
blocks, which were an integral part of the structure 
itself, and that there was every indication that it was the 
original and the only inscription ever carved there. 3 
Lanciani, after examination of the staircase and rooms 
in the attic, pronounced the inside of the structure to be 
built with a great variety of materials taken from monu- 
ments belonging to the Fabii and to the Arruntii. He 
pronounced the bricks, however, contemporary with 
Constantine. 4 

Recently, A. L. Frothingham, whose Monuments of 
Christian Rome (1908) described the arch as erected 
in the time of Constantine, has argued that it was 
originally erected in the time of Domitian, that it was 
afterwards " undedicated " and mutilated, that it was used 
in the third century as a sort of imperial "triumphal 
bulletin-board," and that its "Odyssey" ended with its 
final dedication to Constantine. 5 He bases his new 
opinion (i) on the well-know frequency with which 
Domitian had arches erected ; (2) on the bas-relief from 
the mausoleum of the Haterii showing an unidentified 
monument where the Arch of Constantine now stands 
between the Arch of Titus and the Colosseum, and facing 
the latter; (3) on the decree of memoriae damnatio 
passed against Domitian after his death ; (4) on the fact 

1 Beschreibung der Stadt Rom (1837), vol. iii, part i. 

z Roma nelVanno MDCCCXXXVIII (1838), part i, p. 443 et seq. 

* Bullettmo di Archeologia cnstmna, del Cay. G. . de ROSM (Rome), 
I, No. 7 (July, 1863); No. 8 (Aug., 1863), Miscellaneous (1863). 

* The Rmns and Excavations of Ancient Rome (1897), pp. 191-192 
5 Century Magazzne, vol. Ixxxv, pp. 449-455 (Jan., 1913). 


that triumphs were granted and arches built for victories 
over foreign foes alone, not for victories in civil wars ; 
(5) on the phrase in the inscription quoted above, 
" arcum triumphis insignem dicavit," which he translates, 
"do dedicate herewith . . . this arch, famous for its 
triumphs ; " (6) on his belief that the set of eight medal- 
lions over the smaller passageways representing hunting 
scenes are in the style of Domitian and were part of the 
original decoration, while the rest of the ornamentation 
was inserted later; (7) and on the "series of eight 
niches with half-figures of emperors being crowned by 
victories" under the two smaller arcades. This argu- 
ment as a whole seems plausible, but is by no means 
convincing. The connection of the first three points 
with the Arch of Constantine is purely speculative, the 
second one being also weakened by the fact that the un- 
identified arch on the Haterian bas-relief, which Froth- 
ingham identifies as an arch of Domitian later converted 
into the Arch of Constantine, plainly represents a struc- 
ture with openings on all four sides (quadrafrons) afford- 
ing passageway not only from north to south, but from 
east to west ; quite a different structure from the one we 
are considering. The fourth point, while well taken, is 
not conclusive ; there may well have been exception in 
the fourth century, and the argument would tell as 
effectively against the dedication of an old triumphal 
arch as against the erection of a new one. The fifth, 
sixth and seventh points involve question of interpreta- 
tion of literary and archaeological evidence, in which the 
weight of opinion is against Mr. Frothingham. More- 
over, the history of the arch as lie reconstructs it would 
certainly be unique in the Roman empire, involving more 
difficulties than does the generally accepted account. 1 

1 For the Arch of Constantine, in addition to the works cited above, 


Our interest, however, is in the dedicatory inscription. 
It will be seen that this ascribes Constantine's victory 
partly to his army, but primarily to the prompting of 
divinity and his greatness of mind, " Instinctu Divinitatis 
Mentis Magnitudine." The phrase is colorless and ab- 
solutely indecisive as between paganism and Christianity. 
It does not even necessarily refer to any special mani- 
festation of providence, pagan or Christian. Victories 
have in all times been ascribed to divine favor irre- 
spective of the religion involved and even of the circum- 
stances of the battle. Constantine's earlier triumphs in 
Gaul had long before this been ascribed by pagan pane- 
gyrists to something like "instinctus divinitatis, mentis 
magnitude." 1 The monotheism of the conqueror may be 
inferred from the inscription, since if Constantine had 
been a pagan of the old type there would probably have 
been specific reference to Jupiter, Apollo or some other 
pagan deity. One would infer, also, that he was not at 
this time a zealous Christian, nor thought to be such, 
otherwise some distinctively Christian phrase would have 
been used. It is possible, however, that the indefinite- 
ness of the phrase represents the thought of the pagan 
Senate rather than the emperor's attitude. 

The matter has been complicated by the theory that 
"instinctu divinitatis " was not the original inscription, 
but a correction carved later over the original phrase. 

cf* Jordan, Topographic f der Stadt Rom im Altertum y ed. Huelsen 
(Berlin, 1907), vol. i, part 3, pp. 45 et seq,; H. Gnsar, Geschichte 
JRoms (1901), vol. i, p 172.; E. Petersen, Vom altem Rom (Leipsic, 
1911), p. 66 et seq. 

Photographs of the Arch and other reproductions have been fre- 
quently published. Detailed descriptions with excellent photographic 
reproductions are given by J. Leufkens in Konstantin der Grosse n. 
seine Zeit, ed. by Dolger, pp. 161-216, and plates Hi, 17, v, vi. 

1 Cf* infra, p. 131 et seq. 


It has even been asserted that the original inscription 
was '<NVTV. I. O. M.," "at the nod of Jupiter Optimus 
Maximus." 1 This theory, however, seems utterly unten- 
able. The spacing of the inscription would be very 
peculiar, indeed, if such a phrase had really been a part 
of it, and close study of the attic of the Arch seems to 
afford no grounds for assuming that the inscription ever 
contained other words than are now to be seen in it. 2 

In the ruins of a building in the little Umbrian city of 
Hispellum an inscription 3 recites that the emperor 
granted a petition for the erection of a temple in honor 
of the gens Flavia to which he belonged, for the celebra- 
tion there of certain festal performances with the stipu- 
lation that the temple was not to be polluted with the 
frauds of tainted superstition, "ne aedis nostro nomini 
dedicata cuiusquam contagiosae superstitionis fraudibus 
polluatur. " In spite of Burckhardt's opinion to the con- 
trary, 4 this probably meant the prohibition of pagan rites, 
and the building was intended apparently, not as a place 
of worship, but as a place for game and other celebrations, 
including, it must be admitted, gladiatorial shows. 5 

A third inscription 6 shows that privileges were given 
to localities on account of all their inhabitants being 

1 For full assertion of this theory and references, see Burckhardt, 
Zett Constantins d Grossen, pp 343-344, 475^6. 

2 Cf. supra, p. 49; also Seeck, Gesch. d. Untergangs der ant^ken 
Welt,, i, p. 491; Dessau, 694; Keim, Der Uebertrttt Constanhns, d. G* 
zum Chnstentum. 

* Ascribed to 336-337 A. D., Dessau 705; Orelli 5580, printed in 
Muratori Inscr. in p. 1791 as spurious, but now generally accepted as 

*Zeit Constantzns d. . p. 382. 

5 Cf. Seeck: Gesch. d Untergangs d. antiken Welt, i, 471. 

6 C /. L, in 7000 "quibus omnibus quasi quidam cumulus accedit 
quod omnes ibidem sectatores sanctissimae religionis habitare dicantur. '* 


" adherents of (our) most sacred religion. " Taken 
with Eusebius' account 1 of special honor being shown 
Gaza and a town in Phoenicia on the same ground, this 
is proof of the emperor's active interest in, and associa- 
tion with Christianity after he became sole emperor. 

4. Writings 

Aside from coins and inscriptions a considerable body 
of direct evidence on Constantine's religion has been 
preserved, chiefly by Eusebius, in the form of speeches 
and letters attributed to him. 2 The longest of these is 
the Easter sermon, or " Oration of the Emperor Con- 
stantine to the Assembly of the Saints," which Eusebius 
appended to his Life of Constantine as a sample of the 
discourses which he says Constantine was in the habit 
of delivering to the court and even to the public. 3 This 
is held by Schultze, 4 chiefly on the ground of contra- 
dictions which it involves to Eusebius' narrative, and 
some close, even verbal resemblances to Lactantius, to 
be not a speech of the emperor's, but some Latin docu- 
ment copied by Eusebius. Since Eusebius did not hear 
the speech and was only at rare intervals at the court, 5 
such a mistake was within the realm of possibility. But 
I am inclined to think that its obvious dependence upon 
Lactantius and its variations from Eusebius' own state- 
ments, 6 do not militate against the speech being Con- 

l Ltfe of Constantine, iv, 37, 38. 

2 For lists, with comments, see Richardson's "Prolegomena" in 
Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. i, Eusebius, pp. 
436-439. Cf. also infra, p. 109 et seq. For imperfect and uncritical 
edition of Constantine's Works, cf. Migne, P L., vol. viii, 93-581. 

3 Life of Constantine, iv, 29-32. 

*Zeitsch. f. K. ., viii (1886), p. 541 etseq. 

*Life of Constantine, iv, 33; 39; 46. 

. Lactantius, Divine Institutes, i, 4*7, iv, 18-19, and Constantine, 




I. Church Building 

ASIDE from legislation and other evidence already cited, 
many phases of imperial patronage of religion are disclosed 
by writers of Constantine's time. Thus, in the erection of 
buildings, in the entourage of the court, and in the attitude 
of contemporary Christian and pagan leaders, one can trace 
the dominance of one or another religious influence. 

Constantine followed the example of many of his prede- 
cessors in erecting innumerable buildings. Early in his 
career, in Gaul, he rebuilt the public structures of Autun. 1 
Nazarius extolled his building as well as his restoration of 
order in Rome immediately after the victory over Maxen- 
tius. 2 His friendly attitude toward Christianity was, there- 
fore, naturally shown in the erection of churches. Eusebius 
abounds in sweeping statements of wholesale erection of 
Christian memorials, basilicas and churches throughout the 
empire s 

Zosimus, the pagan historian, with characteristic spleen, 
tells of his wasting public money on many useless buildings, 

1 Cf. the panegyric of Eumenius (310) at Treves, chap 22, and the 
oration of formal thanks the following year, Migne, P. L, vni, cols. 
639, 641 

2 Panegyricus of 321, Migne, P. L. f viii, col. 605 et seq. (chap. 33). 

8 Cf. Oration in Praise of Constantine> chaps. 9 et seq ; Life of Con- 
stanhne, i, 42; ii, 45 and 46; iii, i, 47 and 50. 

56 [56 


some of which were so badly constructed that they had to 
be torn down. The Theodosian Code bears testimony to 
his zeal for building, at the time of the rearing of many 
structures in Constantinople, by his instructions for estab- 
lishing schools of architecture. 1 

Many important church structures were, beyond reason- 
able doubt, built by him or through his influence, and by 
members of his family. 2 Most of our information about 
churches built in the eastern part of the empire comes from 
Eusebius' Life of Constantine. Aside from general state- 
ments about the zeal of the emperor and of his mother, 
Helena, in this cause the biographer refers specifically to 
the following: the Church of the Sepulchre 3 and its adja- 
cent basilica, in Jerusalem; a church on the Mount of 
Olives, 4 a basilica in Bethlehem 5 and at Mamre ; 6 a church 
at Heliopolis, 7 at Antioch, 8 at Nicomedia; 9 the Church of 
the Twelve Apostles at Constantinople, 10 in which Constan- 
tine's own sepulchral monument was built. Of most of 
these Eusebms gives a glowing description, and in the case 
of the Church of the Sepulchre at Jerusalem and the Church 
of the Twelve Apostles at Constantinople, he gives a de- 
tailed and elaborate account These two, and the church at 

2 Ciampini, De sacns aedifichs a Constantino Magno constructis synopiis 
histona, Rome, 1693, is still one of the chief sources of information 
about these, though his identifications are not always accepted by mod- 
ern archaeologists. 

8 iii, 25-40; cf. also Anonymt itinerarum (Bordeaux pilgrim), A D. 
333, Migne, P. L , vol. viii, col. 791. 

4 iii, 41-43 ; cf. also Bordeaux pilgrim, loc. cit. 

*Ibid. Cf. Bordeaux pilgrim, col 792. 

6 in, 51-53; cf. also Bordeaux pilgrim, loc at. 

1 iii, 58. 8 ni, 50- 

9 Ibid. 10 iv, 58-60. 


preservation in it of the principal relic of the True Cross. 1 
A parish church inside the old city, that of Equitius, after- 
wards 55. Silvestro e Martina ai Monti, is claimed by the 
Liber Pontificahs for the episcopate of Sylvester, Constan- 
tine's contemporary, and its remains are so assigned by 
many archaeologists 2 If this be correct it was probably one 
of the beneficiaries of the emperor's generosity, even 
though the bishop of Rome was its builder. 

Outside the walls, according to the Liber Pontificalis, a 
large basilica of St. Peter was erected (on the Vatican 
Hill), a smaller basilica of St. Paul (on the Via Ostiensis), 
a basilica of St. Lawrence (on the Via Tiburtina), a basilica 
of St. Agnes (on the Via Nomentana), and one of SS. 
Marcellinus and Peter (on the Via Praenestina) . The 
mausoleum of Constantina (incorrectly called Constantia) 
near the basilica of St. Agnes, was apparently used as the 
baptistery of the latter and should therefore be included 
in the list 3 While it is by no means certain that all of these 
buildings owed their origin to Constantine, his family, or 
pontiffs contemporary with him, such is the very general 
opinion of archaeologists and of church historians. 4 It is 
probable also that these and other churches received some, 
if by no means all, of the ornaments and endowments which 
later were described in such detail in the Liber Pontificals 
Though tradition has doubtless exaggerated the extent of 
Constantine's building, adorning and endowing of churches, 

1 Cf Frothingham, op. cit., p 24 ; Lanciam, op. cit , pp 397 ct seq. 

2 Frothingham, op. cit , pp. 22-23. 

8 For a short account of all these buildings, cf. Frothingham, op. cit, 
PP 24-31- 

*For short summaries of Constantine' s church building, cf. W. R* 
Lethaby and C, H. Turner, in Cambridge Medieval History, vol. i, pp. 
609-611, and 158 respectively. The argument that Constantine was at 
Rome only at long intervals and for short stays does not, as is some- 
times assumed, prove that he did not order -extensive building there. 


it is not too much to say that he was in this regard not only 
the earliest, but one of the most profuse of imperial patrons 
of the church. 

2. Constantino 's Actions at Rome 

In the campaign against Maxentius, Constantme made 
use of the cross and the monogram among his military in- 
signia, perhaps as a result of a dream. 1 After his entry 
into Rome he is said to have erected m the city a statue of 
himself holding a cross in his hand, and inscribed with the 
following phrases, " By this salutary sign, the true proof 
of bravery, I have saved and freed your city from the yoke 
of the tyrant," etc. 2 These references in Eusebius are our 
only evidences and they have been questioned, 3 but their 
repetition by him in different circumstances, especially in 
the Church History and in the oration at Tyre in 314, has 
something of cumulative evidence. The probability of such 
a statue being erected is great, and is increased by the fact 
that Maxentius declared hostilities by overthrowing and 
defacing statues of Constantine at Rome. 4 I am therefore 
inclined to accept Eusebius' statements. 

The honor of apotheosis granted to- Diocletian (soon 
after 313) probably by the Senate, is sometimes cited as 
evidence that Constantine was not a Christian at this time, 5 
but not much weight ought to be attached to it. Rome was 

1 For discussion of stones otf Constantme's conversion in this connec- 
tion, cf. infra, pp. 78 et seq.; 135 et seq. 

2 Eusebius, Church History, ix, 9, 10; n; x, 4, 16, Oration in Praise 
of Constantine, ix, 9, 18, Life of Constantine, i, 40. 

3 Cf Bneger m Zeitsch f. K. G. (1880), p. 45 

4 Nazarius, Panegyricus (321), chap. 12. 

5 Cf. Burckhardt, Zeit Constantins d. G , p 345 This was the last 
time this was done in the old pagan sense 


still strongly pagan ; the act was very natural, and probably 
a mere formality. 

On the other hand, Constantine, in the latter part of his 
reign, during his last visit to Rome, seems to have taken a 
definite stand against public ceremonies which involved 
recognition of the old gods. He refused on this occasion 
to lead the military procession of the equestrian order and 
present himself before the Jupiter of the Capitolme hill. 1 
Something of a riot is said to have resulted from his de- 
fiance of the public sentiment which supported the cere- 

3. Personal Favor Shown Churchmen and the Church 

Of great significance is the unquestioned fact that Con- 
stantine employed (317) a Christian rhetorician, the well- 
known writer Lactantius, as the tutor of his sons, especially 
Crispus All of his children were given a distinctively 
Christian education and the sons who succeeded him in im- 
perial power earned out a decisively Christian policy in the 
government. 2 

Christian bishops were continually present at Constan- 
tme's court after 312. Hosius, bishop of Cordova in Spain, 
may have been with him in his campaign against Maxen- 
tius ; he certainly accompanied him on an expedition later, 
and seems to have been very influential at court 3 * Euse- 
bius of Nicomedia for many years enjoyed the favor of the 
emperor as well as that of his family. Eusebius of Cae- 
sarea delighted to recount expressions of royal appreciation 

l Zosimus, ii, 29 Though Zosimus is not always a reliable source, 
there is no reason to reject this story Cf. infra, p. 63, n. 6. 

* Cod. Theod , xvi, 10, 2 and 4. Cf. Boyd, op cit., pp 21-23 See also 
Eusebius, Life of Constantine, iv, 52. For Lactantius, cf. Jerome, de 
Vir. III., So. 

8 Eusebius, Church History, x, 6, 2 , Life of Constantine, ii, 63 ; Soc- 
rates, i, 2, i; Athanasius, ApoL c Ar , 75 


which he received at his appearance before Constantine 
and in letters from him. 1 At the Council of Nicea the em- 
peror showered attentions upon the bishops, and especially 
upon those who had suffered during the persecutions, 2 
Making all allowance for exaggerations by Eusebius and 
other ecclesiastics who* were dazzled by the eminence thus 
given them, the direct patronage bestowed upon the church 
and upon many leading churchmen must have been ex- 
ceedingly liberal. Ammianus Marcellmus complained of 
his disorganizing the post service by giving Christian 
bishops free use of it in attending councils." 

He granted public money to various clergymen and 
churches, 4 and spent large sums on church buildings. 5 So 
far as we know he took little or no part during his later life 
in pagan ceremonies G 

4. Attitude Toward Paganism 

Reports of the destruction of pagan temples by Constan- 
tine's orders and of his approval of their destruction by the 
people come down to us from nearly all sources. Most, if 
not all of these, refer to the last ten years of his life Some 

iLife of Constantine, iv, 33-36; 46, id, 61. 
2 Ibid., in, 15, 22. Cf. also Theodoret, i, ii, i. 
*xxi, 16, 18 

4 Eusebius, Church History, x, 6, Constantme's letter to Cealian, 
bishop of Carthage, informing him of an appropriation, and authoriz- 
ing him to draw on the treasury. 

5 Cf. supra j p 56 et seq 

6 For his- refusal to take part in the military procession of the eques- 
trian order to offer public vows to Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill, 
cf. supra, p 62. Zosimus elsewhere affirms that Constantine 
tolerated heathen rites, and even took part in them (ii, 29, 3), but 
his statements to that effect in part refer to the earlier years of Con- 
stantine, in part are trivial, and are always under the suspicion of ex- 
treme partisanship. It can readily be seen that entire removal of pagan 
elements in all public ceremonies or absolute refusal to participate in 
such unpurified occasions would in any case be difficult and unnecessary 
as well as impolitic 


such cases may be traced to a desire to suppress immoral 
and licentious rites, a feeling not limited to the Christians. 1 
Some were doubtless due to the necessity of replenishing 
Constantine's notoriously disordered treasury, though Euse- 
bius maintains that the removal of gold, silver and brass 
ornaments and coverings of statues was effected in order 
to expose the bare wood to the derision of the multitude. 2 
But though the motive was avarice, the process shows no 
friendship for paganism. Many statues, also, and other 
ornaments were removed from heathen temples for the 
beautification of the new city of Constantinople 8 Not 
only were repairs stopped on old temples, but many such 
buildings must have been demolished and their materials 
used for other purposes. There can be no doubt but that 
the emperor's attitude greatly encouraged the process of 
the destruction of pagan antiquity. 4 Though no general 
law for the destruction of pagan temples has come down 
to us from this time, a law of Constans presupposes the 
gradual destruction of such edifices during the last years of 
Constantine's reign 5 

Constantine's pro-Christian and anti-Pagan policy, how- 
ever, does not seem to have been so pronounced as to make 

1 Eg , the shrine of the heavenly goddess at Aphaca on Lebanon about 
330 (Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ni, 55) , and the temple at Heliop- 
ohs, supplanted by a church liberally supplied with almsmoney (ibid, 
chap 58) 

2 Eusebms, Life of Constantine, ni, 54 and 57, copied from his Ora- 
tion in Praise of Constantine, ch 8 It may be noted that in chapter 
54 Eusebius says this was done not by military force, but by a few of 
the emperor's own friends This looks like mercenary pillage 

3 C 1 /. infra, pp. 65-66 

*Cf Eusebius, Life of Constantine, lii, 54-58, cf Lanciani, The De- 
struction of Pagan Rome (1903), pp. 30 et seq 

5 Cod. Theod., ix, 17 Cf. also Eunapius, Vita Aedes, 37, ed., Boise- 
sonade, Amsterdam, 1822 


an open and sharply-defined break. Eusebius himself after 
summarizing his legislation for the relief of Christians in 
the west between 312 and 323 adds, "But his munificence 
bestowed still further and more numerous favors on the 
heathen peoples and the other nations in his empire. So 
that the inhabitants of our regions [the East] with one 
consent proclaimed their own happiness," etc? Pagans 
continued in the court of Constantine up to the very last a 
Yet a story has been preserved of a heathen philosopher, 
Kanonaris, executed for persistent denunciation of Con- 
stantine's destruction of the old religion. 31 We are told, 
also, through Eunapius, Zosimus and Suidas, concerning 
Sopater, a neoplatonist friend of the emperor's or possibly 
a magician, who was executed at Constantinople after 330 
According to one version this was on the accusation of 
keeping back by magic the Egyptian grain ships. It may 
have been brought about by a court intrigue of the Chris- 
tian faction. 4 

There are even some reports of pagan elements in the 
buildings and dedicatory exercises of Constantinople. 
Burckhardt 5 has emphasized the following : Glycas 6 tells 
of an astronomer Valens brought there to cast the horo- 
scope of the new city Sopater, also, is said to have per- 
formed mystic symbols as a magician. 7 There are also r&- 

4 Life of Constantine, n, 22. 

* For one of the " self-imagined philosophers " ; cf. Eusebius, Life of 
CoMstantine, iv, 55 

8 Burckhardt, Zeit Constantws d. G., p. 447, on basis of "Anonymus " 
in Banduri, Imperiwn orientals, p. 98. 

4 Cf. Zosimus, ii, 40. 

5 Zeit Constantins d G , pp 382, 480 et seq 

6 Chronicle, part iv A poor source, from the twelfth century or later. 
T This on basis of Joannes Lydus, De Mensibus, iv, 2 


ports of the erection of heathen temples to the Divine 
Mother, to Castor and Pollux, and to Tyche, and of the 
performance of an annual ceremony in which the image of 
Tyche figured. 1 On the face of the evidence, however, the 
first two seem very uncertain, while the temples seem to 
have been monumental structures built to hold statuary, 
without any cults connected with them, and the ceremonies 
were probably without any religious significance whatever. 2 
The friendliness of Christian writers to Constantme and 
the hostility of subsequent pagan writers is of itself almost 
conclusive evidence that he took his stand openly with the 
former. That he had some pagan panegyrists, especially 
early in his reign, is to be accounted for by the fact that 
only later did he assume Christianity, and then only gradu- 
ally. 3 That there was little or no specifically pagan oppo- 
sition to him during his life is explained by the fact that 
pagan leaders do not seem to have been aware that the issue 
between the two religions was being permanently decided 
in that generation. It could not have been seen until the 
reign of Julian that the attitude of one emperor could be so 
decisive or that a future restoration of paganism was for- 
ever out of the question Diocletian's persecution had not 
only failed to destroy the church, but it had failed to per- 
suade earnest supporters of pagan religions that Christian- 
ity was dangerous to them. However, with Julian's unsuc- 
cessful attempt to turn the tide back to paganism, there 
came a change so noticeable that Bury uses it as one basis 

1 0n the basis of Zosimus, ii, 31; Philostorgius, ii, 17; Sozomen, v, 4, 
and Chromcon Paschale, ad ann. 330, 

*Cf. Gnsar, Zeitsch. f. Kath. TheoL, vi (1882), pp. 587 et seq., and 
'Strzygowski in Analecta Graeciensia (Graz., 1893). 

3 Cf. Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ii, 23, 47. 


for determining the date of pagan writings. 1 Those who 
were most in earnest about paganism were thereafter apt 
to be bitter toward Constantine, even to the extent of 
maligning and slandering him. 

5. Constantine's Activity in Church Affairs, and his Motives 

The friendliness of Christian writers toward Constan- 
tine is so evident that it needs no proof nor comment. Euse- 
bius, and his successors, united in extolling Constantine 
not only as the first Christian emperor, but as their deliv- 
erer and their divinely sent prince None ventured upon 
serious criticism of him, and, in Christian writings, even 
the most harmless suggestion of any imperfection in him 
was usually veiled by reference to the evil influence of 
others. 2 

We may conclude, then, that imperial patronage as well 
as the legislative power of the emperor was exerted in- : 
creasingly in favor of the Christians, and that the total 
effect of his reign was an overwhelming asset to the church 
Acts and tendencies to the contrary were only incidental to 
a gradual change in that direction and to the natural sur- 
vival of earlier conditions. Such, beyond reasonable doubt 
was the retention by him until his death, and indeed by 
his immediate successors, of the title Pontifex Maximus, 
which designated the emperor as honorary head of the old 
official religions. 

The spirit or purpose dominant in this use of imperial 
power and patronage is not altogether clear, important as 
this is for the understanding of the history of the church. - 
Of two such authoritative historians as Seeck and Ed. 
Schwartz, the former exhibits Constantine as dominated 

1 Of. his edition of Gibbon, Decline and fall of the Roman Empire, 
11, appendix i, p. 534, tinder Praxagoras. 
* Cf. Eusebms, Life of Constantine, iv, 29, 31. 


by religious or superstitious motives and by those whom he 
looked upon as representatives of the divine power, 1 the 
latter speaks of " the sovereign high-handedness with which 
he ruled the church 2 Neither extreme is warranted. There 
is no evidence that the first Christian emperor sought to use 
the church organization for any political ends or to impose 
upon it any task alien to its own conception of its ends. 
The evidence that he devoted resources of the state to the 
support of the church is abundant; there is none that he 
used even the moral resources of the church for the sup- 
port of the crown. Statements to the latter effect are 
merely inferences, and for the most part based on a priori 
reasoning. And yet Constantine was far from putting 
himself unreservedly under the control of the church lead- 
ers. His attitude toward the whole situation was that of a 
statesman, not that of a fanatic. Nor did he, appar- 
ently look upon the church organization as an institution 
superior to, and independent of, the imperial power. He 
took an active part in its management 3 The chief interest 
he displayed on this score was that the ecclesiastical ma- 
chinery should run smoothly and that the cult of the su- 
preme God, the God who gave victory, should be main- 
tained in full efficiency. 

Shortly after he was established in control of the West 
he took a hand in the troubles in Africa out of which the 

1 Seeck (throughout represents Constantine as unselfish and not at all 
ambitious He even expounds his military career on the basis that he 
tried his utmost to uphold Diocletian's system of governing the em- 
pire, that he had no desire to increase his own power or temtory, and 
that all his wars were defensive. Cf. Untergang d. anttken Welt, i, p. 
112, et passim. This preposterous proposition I can explain only as an 
extreme reaction against Burckhardt's exposition of Constantine as the 
embodiment of unscrupulous ambition, and as an instance of Seeck's 
habit of assuming a motive for his characters a.nd then construing 
everything in accordance with that motive 

2 Kaiser Constantin mid die chnsthche Kirche, p. 70 
8 Eg. cf. Eusebius, Life of Constantine, i, 46. 


Donatist schism developed. He gave his support from 
the first to the regular organization, 1 but submitted matters 
in dispute to Miltiades, bishop of Rome, and three of his 
colleagues from Gaul. 2 In this and in some subsequent 
matters Constantine employed the bishop of Rome in the 
West as a " kind of secretary of state for Christian affairs, 3 
and contributed not a little to the growing power of the 
Roman see. When the vindication which Caecilian, the 
regular bishop, received from this Roman tribunal failed 
to quiet the African disturbance, the emperor convoked the 
famous Synod of Aries (314) which also condemned the 
schismatics and took advantage of the occasion to draw 
up various rules for church discipline. 4 As the schism, 
instead of subsiding, grew in violence, Constantine tried to 
settle it himself by summoning leaders of the two factions 
and hearing them in person. Deciding in favor of Caecil- 
ian, he sent commissioners to restore peace in Africa, 
meanwhile retaining these contestants in Italy. They es- 
caped to Carthage, however, and the struggle continued 
For a while Constantine tried forcible expulsion of the 
Donatists from churches, but later gave this up and con- 
tented himself with stating his disapproval of the schis- 
^matics and urging the Catholic leaders to have patience. 5 

1 Cf. letters in Eusebms, Church History, x, 5, 15-17; x, 6, 1-5; x, 
7, 1-2 

* Ibid , x, 5, 18-20. Fifteen Italian bishops were later joined to these 

3 The phrase is from George Finlay, History of the Byzantine Empire,. 
Book I, iii, sec. 3 

*C/. letters of Constantine: Eusebms-, op. cit, x, 5, 21-24, and Migne, 
Patrologia Latina, vol. vin, p. 487 Cf. also the Sylloge Optatiana, in 
the Vienna Corpus Scriptorum Ecclesiastic orum Latinorum, vol xxvi, 
p. 206. Seeck, dates the council, 316, Zeitsch. f. K. G., x, 509. 

5 For a clear discussion of this procedure with references to sources, 
cf. Duchesne, Histoire ancienne de VEglise, Eng trans Early History 
of the Church, vol. ii, pp 92-97 


Constantine's participation in the next great ecclesiastical 
controversy of his reign, the Arian trouble, ran a course 
somewhat parallel to the preceding. The conflict was in 
full blast at Alexandria when Constantine gamed control 
of the East. He tried by letters, carried in person by 
Hosius to Bishop Alexander and to Anus, to induce them 
to restore peace by mutual toleration of differences of opin- 
ion. 1 This failing, and in view, also, of a widespread dif- 
ference in the time of the observance of Easter, Constan- 
tine proceeded to summon a great council at Nicea. The 
bishop of Rome, so far as we know, did not figure in the 
preliminaries of the council. There was no one in the East 
holding a central position corresponding to his, so Con- 
stantine assumed immediate direction of the affair. At the 
first session of the council he made his entrance in state, 
and replied in a set speech to the oration of thanksgiving 
with which he was addressed 2 He followed the de- 
bates and occasionally took part in the discussion. The 
decisions of the council both as to the proper date 
for observing Easter, to which the emperor himself at- 
tached most importance, and as to the doctrinal questions, 
raised by the Arian controversy were confirmed by im- 
perial letters.* The further course of the controversy also 

1 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ii, 63-73 , giving a copy of the long 

2 For the part taken by Constantine in the proceedings of the council, 
cf. Realencyklopadie fur prot. TheoL und Kirche, xiv, 12, 30-45. 

8 Such, substantially, is Eusebius' account Cf. Life of Constantine, 
in, 6-23 ; also i, 44 This is the most important contemporary descrip- 
tion, but tells little about the debates, about the course by which de- 
cisions were reached, or even about the decisions themselves The 
literature on the Council of Nicea is extensive, and important points 
are still obscure Duch-esne's account, op. cit, vol ii, pp. 98-124, gives 
clearly the generally accepted version, if indeed there may be said to be 
such a thing 


substantiates Eusebius' comparison of Constantme to a 
" general bishop constituted of God." * But it is not nec- 
essary here to go into the temporary success of the Arian 
reaction, the recall of Anus from banishment, and the 
first triumph of Athanasius' enemies, resulting- in his exile 
and imprisonment at Treves. Constantine, while hope- 
lessly at sea as to the theological aspects of the contro- 
versy, controlled the proceedings and gave preponderance 
to those whom he favored, and exile to those whom he 
condemned. 2 

Constantine did not succeed in stifling ecclesiastical con- 
troversy by government pressure. But he undoubtedly 
contributed to the realization of the purpose for which he 
labored, the unity of the church in the support of the cultus 
of the Supreme God. His dictum, " whatsoever is deter- 
mined in the holy assemblies of the bishops is to be regarded 
as indicative of the divine will," 3 involved in his mind 
the co-operation of state and church in winning and keep- 
ing the favor of this Supreme God, the bestower of all suc- 
cess. It however involved also the subsequent development 
of a state church with intriguing bishops, an iron organi- 
zation and thought-confining dogma linked to a military 
absolutism 4 

1 Op a*., i, 44 

5 Our chief, but by no means our only, source of information on these 
matters is the writings of Athanasius For a modern account based 
largely an these writings, and judiciously favorable to their author, cf 
Duchesne, op. at, ii, pp 125-152 For an account almost bitterly hostile 
to Athanasius, and extremely distrustful of his statements, cf. Seeck, 
Untergang d. antiken Welt, vol. hi, pp. 431, et passim. 

8 Eusebius, op. cit , iii, 20. 

4 Cf Ed. Schwartz, Kaiser Constantly, u d. christhche Klrche, pp. 



i. Various Early Accounts 

CONSTANTINE came into direct contact with the East 
as emperor only after his final triumph over Licinms. His 
reign henceforth, as we have seen, was not only' favorable 
to the Christians, but was essentially the reign of a Chris- 
tian sovereign. It was in this capacity that the historian 
Eusebius, who lived in Palestine, first came to fully know 
him. It was very natural, therefore, that Eusebius in his 
Church History, which he wrote during and almost imme- 
diately after Constantine's rise to power, 1 should assume 
that Constantine had been a Christian from the beginning 
of his career. 2 Throughout the work there is no word of 
a conversion of Constantine, of any miraculous vision in- 
strumental in the process, or of any need of his being con- 
verted at all On the contrary, it tells how, before the 
campaign against Maxentius in 312, he "took compassion 
upon those who were oppressed at Rome [the Christians 
under Maxentius], and having invoked in prayer the God 
of heaven, and his Word, and Jesus Christ himself, the 
Saviour of all, as his aid, advanced with his whole army, 
proposing to restore to the Romans their ancestral lib- 

1 For the dates of the various parts of the Church History, cf the 
critical apparatus of the edition of Schwartz and Momrnsen 
2 vm, 13, 14, ix, 9, 2, 3, 9-1 1. 

72 [72 


erty." x Eusebius' later version of the matter, which he 
gives in his Life of Constantine, written some fifteen or 
twenty years after the passage quoted above, is quite dif- 
ferent. It contains a description of the emperor's sudden 
conversion by a miraculous apparition in the heavens inter- 
preted the following night in a dream. This episode will 
be discussed later ; 2 but the question whether a sudden con- 
version of some sort or other took place must be consid- 
ered here. Legends from pagan sources, as well as Euse- 
bius' Life of Constantine, incorporate the view that the 
emperor underwent such an experience. The sources of 
information examined in our previous chapters do not point 
to such a conclusion, but we may well look into other evi- 

2. Constantino's Early Paganism 

Constantine apparently identified himself with paganism 
during the time he ruled north of the Alps as the suc- 
cessor of his father, Constantius. Eusebius' early opinion 
to the contrary is discredited not only by his later contra- 
diction of it, but by his remoteness from Gaul 3 That he, 
following in his father's footsteps, extended toleration to 
the Christians is certain; but various pagan emperors had 
previously done the same. This is no proof that he himself 
entertained Christian views That his father was a Chris- 
tian and conducted his household as such is implied in 
Eusebius' Life of Constantine } 4 but this is, on such a point, 
questionable authority, and the particular passages con- 

ix, 9, 2. It will be noted that this marks the inception of the 
campaign, and that the opening engagements of the war follow it in 
paragraph three. 

3 Cf. infra, p. 135 et seq. 

3 The addresses in Lactantius' Dw. Inst. implying that Constantine 
was a Christian in 311 or earlier, have been shown to be interpolations. 
Cf. Brandt's ed. in CSEL. xix, 668 

4 i, 16-18; u, 49; this latter purporting to quote Constantine. 


cerned are unquestionably highly overdrawn. 1 Some slight 
evidence in support of Eusebius' eulogy there may be in 
the fact that Constantius gave one of his daughters, Con- 
stantine's sister, what seems to be a specifically Christian 
name, Anastasia (Resurrection), though in any case this 
name may have been proposed by a Christian mother. 2 
Eusebius himself, however, in his Church History, speaks 
of Constantius' being ranked by his subjects among 
the gods and receiving after death every honor which 
one could pay an emperor.* Lack of substantial evi- 
dence for Constantius' being a Christian, leads one 
to accept the general opinion that, while probably a 
devout monotheist and certainly tolerant toward the Chris- 
tians, he was not himself one of them. As for Con- 
stantine in Gaul, the only local and strictly contemporary 
evidence we possess is found in the panegyrics of Eumenius 
and an anonymous orator, generally identified as Nazanus. 
Eulogistic orators are not unimpeachable historical sources, 
but these two take at least relatively high rank among those 
who spoke in honor of Constantme. Eumenius was one of 
the foremost scholars of his time, the head of a consider- 
able literary circle at Autun, in Gaul,, and enjoying the per- 
sonal and financial support of the emperor. 4 His pane- 
gyrics, and the anonymous one referred to above, show de- 
tailed familiarity with Constantine's career in Gaul. There 
is no reason for questioning their statements about his re- 

1 For discussion of the reliability of Eusebius' Life of Constantino 
cf. in f r^ pp. 107 et seq. 

9 Cf. on this Seeck, Untergang d antik. Welt, i, pp 61, 473. 

B viii, 13, 12. The remoteness of Eusebius from the West would not 
invalidate his statements about such official matters to the same extent 
as it would his statements about the personal religious convictions of a 
Western ruler. 

* For a modern account of the school at Autun, cf. G. Block, in La- 
visse's Histoire de France, vol i, part li (1900). 


ligious affiliations, for panegyrists, even though they were 
otherwise untrustworthy, could be relied upon not to offend 
the convictions of the subject of their praise. What they 
have to say about their prince's religion, furthermore, is 
told incidentally, as patent fact, not as argument or proof, 
but as basis for obviously acceptable praise. Both orators 
represent Constantine as a devout pagan of monotheistic 

Eumenius, in a panegyric delivered in 310, in the pres.- 
ence of his royal patron, refers to a visit of the latter to 
the Apollo temple at Autun before a renewed attack upon 
the Franks, and proceeds to extol the divine qualities of 
the young ruler, and to recite the favor of Apollo to him 
" For thou sawest, I believe, thine Apollo, accompanied by 
Victory, offering thee the laurel crowns " " Now all tem- 
ples seem to call thee to themselves, especially our Apollo, 
in whose seething waters perjuries, which thou must have 
hated most of all, are punished." " Immortal gods, when 
will you grant that day on which this god most manifest, 
universal peace restored, may go about among those groves 
of Apollo himself, and among the sacred abodes, and the 
breathing mouths of the springs. . . Thou wilt assuredly 
marvel at that abode of thy very divinity " i The orator 

1 Panegyric 310, chaps. 20, 21, 22; in Pan. Vet, no vii, and in Migne, 
P. L , viii, col. 637 et seq. 

" Ipsa hoc si ordmante f ortuna, ut te ibi rerum tuarum felicitas admo- 
neret, <diis immortahbus, ferre quae voveras, ubi deflexisses ad tern- 
plum [of Apollo] toto orbe pulcherrimum, imo ad praesentem, ut vemste, 
deum Vidisti enim, credo, Constantine, Appollmem tuum, comitante 
victoria, coronas tibi laureas offerentem," etc. "Jam omnia te vocare 
ad se templa videantur, praecipueque Apollo noster, cujus ferventibus 
aquis perjuria punmntur, quae te maxime oportet odisse." 

" Dii immortales, quando ilium dabitis diem, quo praesentissimus hie 
deus omni pace composita, illos quoque Apollmis lucos et sacres sedes et 
anhela fomtmm ora circumeat . . . Mirabens profecto illam quoque 
numinis tui sedem," etc. 


closes with a delicately worded, but urgent suggestion that 
Constantine repair the public buildings and especially the 
temple of Autun. The formal thanks of that city for its 
restoration and for the grant of the imperial name, Augus- 
todunum, presented to Constantine by Eumenius in the 
panegyric of the following year, show that the allusions to 
Apollo were not ungrateful. 

The whole episode is reinforced by a reference in Julian's 
Orations 1 to a special Helios cult of Constantme's, by 
Eumenius' emphasis upon his relation to Apollo', and by 
the frequency of the tokens of the Sun-god 2 on Constan- 
tine's coinage. 

The anonymous panegyric of 313, usually attributed to 
Nazanus, 3 informs us that Constantine invaded Italy to 
fight Maxentius against the advice of men, and the warn- 
ings of soothsayers ("contra consiha hominum, contra 
Haruspicum monita"), showmg that he had consulted the 
omens This oration was delivered after the return of 
Constantine to Gaul from his victory over Maxentius, and 
perhaps the effect of that campaign 4 upon the religious 
ideas of Constantine are reflected in the questioning mono- 
theism of the orator in his peroration 6 

1 Oration, vh, p 228 D (ed. Hertlein). 

2 Apollo, Mithras, " Soli Invicti Comiti " 

*Inc ei ti Pa*ieg. Constantino Augusta, 313, in Migne, P L , viii, especi- 
ally col 655, chap. ii. Cf also, supra, p. 36 ; infra, p. 132, n. i. 
* Cf. infra, pp. 77-79. 

5 Ibid , chap. 26, "Quemobrem te [Jove], summe sator, cujus tot 
nomina sunt, quot gentium hnguas voluisti, quern enim te ipse dici 
velis scire non possumus* sive in te quaedam vis mensque divina est, 
qua toto mfusus omnibus miscearis elementis, et sine ullo extrm- 
secus accedente vigoras impulsu per te ipse moveans : sive aliqua supra 
omne coelum potestas es, quae hoc opus tuum exaltiore naturae arce 
despicias . te, dnquam, oramus et quaesumus," etc 

For light upon this whole subject from another angle, cf. Infra, pp. 
131-132 et seq. 


3. Campaign against Maxenfous, and Adoption of Christian 


In this campaign against Maxentius there took place an 
episode which an early Christian legend fixed upon as the 
definite conversion of Constantine to Christianity. 1 Mod- 
ern historians have occasionally denied the occurrence of 
the episode, and looked upon it as merely the later invention 
of the emperor or of his pious biographers There seems, 
however, to be no reason for rejecting the simple and 
straight-forward account of the narrator of the earliest ver- 
sion of it which has come down to us. Lactantius (Lucius 
Caelius Firmianus) was for some years a member of Con- 
stantine' s household and the tutor of his son Crispus, 2 In 
his De Mortibus Persecutorum he says that " Constantine 
[encamped in the neighborhood of Rome, opposite the 
Milvian bridge] was directed in a dream to cause the 
heavenly sign to be delineated on the shields of his soldiers, 

1 A pagan legend dated the conversion much later. On this, cf. infra, 
pp. 127 et seq 

2 1 think we are on safe ground now in accepting Lactantius* author- 
ship of the De Mortibus Persecutorum. Cf. R. Pichon, Lactance 
(Pans, 1901), pp 337-360; Harnack, Die Chronologie der altchnsthchen 
Litteratur, vol ii (Leipsic, 1904), pp. 421 et seq.; O Bardenhewer, 
Patrologie (Freiburg, 1910), p 181 ; Monceaux, Histoire htteraire de 
V Africa chretienne depuis les ongines jusqu'a I' invasion arabe, vol iii 
(Paris, 1905), pp 340-342 Brandt, one of the greatest authorities upon 
Lacta-ntms, attempted to prove what had often been surmised before, 
that the book is by an imitator of Lactantius, in "Ueber die Entste- 
hungsverhaltmsse der Prosaschriften dies Lact u. des Buches de morti- 
bus persecutorum," in Sitzungsbenchte der Wiener Akad., vol cxxv, 
Abh vi (1892), but his case now seems definitely lost. For an excellent, 
brief summary of -the matter, see Bury, in his edition of Gibbon's De- 
cline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1896), vol n, pp 531-533. For 
the life of Lactantius, see Brandt, "Ueber das Leben des Lact," in 
Sitzungsberichte der Wiener Akad, vol cxx (1890) 

The De Mortibus Per$ecutorum> in any case, must have been written 
soon after 313 


and so to proceed to battle He did as he had been com- 
manded, and he marked on their shields the letter X, 
with a perpendicular line drawn through it and turned 
round thus at the top, being the cipher of Christ, >R 
Having this sign, his troops stood to arms." x 

In this account there is nothing said about a miraculous 
vision or about Constantine being converted to Christianity. 
All that the author tells is that in a dream the promise of 
victory was associated with the use of the monogram of 
Christ, and that the event turned out as the dream foretold. 
The dream itself is, of course, not susceptible of historical 
proof, but Constantme's use of the monogram of Christ's 
name, for the first time, during this campaign, and his use 
of it thereafter, is supported by abundant evidence. 2 Its use 
in the first instance may have come as well from a dream 
as from anything else That political or military consid- 
erations could scarcely have led him to take this step, and 
that they could not have played any large part in Constan- 
tine's adoption of Christianity, is clearly proved by Seeck 3 

1 Chap. 44. 

2 Cf. supra, p 47, infra, pp. 79-81 ; and in addition to Eusebius* reiter- 
ated statements, Lactantius, de Mort. Per sec., chap. 44; Prudentius, In 
Symmachum, ii, lines 464-486 Also many coins and medals. For the 
monogram on helmets, see Numismatic Chronicle, 1877, pp. 44 et seq. f 
plate i (article by Madden, "Christian Emblems," etc.). A labarum 
containing the Christian emblems was probably long after deposited in 
the palace at Constantinople, Cod Theod , vi, 25, Theophanes, 
Chronogr., p. n. For some other evidence, see Schultze, Zeitsth. f. 
K. G, xiv (1894), PP- 521 et seq. 

8 Deutsche Rundscfau, April, 1891, pp. 73-84, and repeatedly in his 
Untergang d. antiken Welt The Christians constituted a very small, 
almost negligible part -of the army and, so far as we know, had as yet 
taken no part in politics Italy was predominantly pagan, and Rome 
especially so. There could have been no inherent military or political 
advantage in displaying Christian emblems there Cf also Fedele Savio, 
La Conversione di Costantino Magno e la Chiesa all* mizio del secolo 
iv, in La Civilta Cattohca, 1913, vol i, pp. 385-397 


That some curious natural phenomena in the heavens may 
have impressed the contestant for Italy and led to the use of 
the cross is possible, but hardly meets the requirements of 
any of our sources. Eusebius' detailed account of a 
heavenly apparition is followed by a reference to a dream 
the following night, and this is to some extent a corrobor- 
ation of Lactantius. Where the former goes beyond the 
latter, we have merely an instance of legend-making 
powers at work. 1 

All that the incident involves, then, was the association 
of victory with the use of the wonderful monogram It 
was a superstitious age, and Constantine in fact used the 
labarum bearing this monogram, and the monogram itself, 
as a magical charm, a fetich. For him and for the Chris- 
tians generally, including their bishops, divine power re- 
sided in it; its use brought success and good luck By it 
Constantine probably felt that he prevailed over his ene- 
mies. What he adopted before the battle of the Milvian 
Bridge, was not Christianity but a luck token. 2 The cross 
had by this time become generally used by Christians as a 
magic sign before which demons fled. 3 Constantine used 
both the monogram of Christ and the cross. It is often 
difficult m reading the accounts of Eusebius and later 
writers to tell to which of the two they refer. 

The monogram > had not always been an exclusively 
Christian sign; it was used on oriental banners in pre- 
Christian times, probably as one of the many symbols of 

1 Cf. mfra, p. 135 et seq. 

* Eusebms, Life of Constantine, i, 31 , n, 6-7 ; 11, 16; Oration in Praise 
of Constantine, chap. 6, 21 ; chap. 9 ; chap. 10 Many of these passages 
embody f etichism pure and simple. 

8 Lactantius, Divine Institutes, iv, 27; De Mort. Persecut, chap. 10. 
For earlier accusation that Christians worshiped the cross, see Tertul- 
lian, Apology, chap. 16, and Ad Nationes, i, 13. 


the sun l It appears on coins in the late third, in the sec- 
ond, and the first centuries before Christ. 2 /But it is ap- 
parent that Constantine's Christian friends regarded it as 
an emblem of their religion. We have no evidence that his 
pagan contemporaries regarded his use of it as indicating 
adherence to the sun-god. 3 

The cross also was used symbolically by others than the 
Christians. It has been, among various peoples, a com- 
mon object in nature worship. 4 Early Christian writers 
speak of its recurrence in nature and of its general sym- 
bolism apart from their own religion. 3 It was m such uni- 
versal use among the Christians, however, as a religious 
token and sign of magic power that by the time of Con- 
stantme it must have been regarded almost as their prop- 
erty. It is interesting to note that for Eusebius it was a 
symbol of immortality rather than a token of Christ's sacri- 
ficial or vicarious death. 7 

That a great general would expect divine help through 
using a symbol, that he would attribute his victory to a 

1 Cf. Zahn, Constantine d. Grosse w. die Kirche, p 14 

2 Rapp, "Das Labarum u. der Sonnenkultus," in Jahrbuch des Verelns 
von Altertumsfreunden im Rheinlande, 1866, pp. 166 et seq. 

8 Bury is a little over-cautious in his statement: "It is not clear that 
Constantme used it as an ambiguous symbol, nor yet is there a well- 
attested instance of its use as a Christian symbol before A D 323 (cf. 
Bneger, in Zeitsch f K. G., iv (1881), p 201) " 

4 It was commented, for instance, that it was one of the emblems in 
the Temple of Serapis at Alexandria at the time that temple was de- 
stroyed. Sozomen, vii, 15; Socrates, v, 17. 

6 Justin Martyr, F^rst Apology, chaps Iv, Ix; Tertulliatt, Apology, 
xvi ; Ad Nationes, a, 13 

*Cf. references, supra; also Tertulhan, De Corona, 3. 

7 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, i, 32, and elsewhere when he men- 
tions the cross. 


divine monogram, is difficult for us to realize to-day, but 
as Seeck and others have shown, it was very natural in the 
fourth century It was much more natural than free- 
thinking and absence of superstitious considerations. The 
clear-minded man who, himself uninfluenced by religious 
'forces or fears of supernatural power, used these for the 
ends of his own ambition, as Constantine is sometimes 
assumed to have done, would have been the exception at 
that time, if not an impossibility. 1 Lactantius apparently 
believed that Licinius, who was not of that author's religion, 
was taught in a dream by an angel a magic formula in the 
shape of a vague monotheistic prayer, which, repeated in 
the presence of the enemy, insured victory. 2 

4. Constantine's Christianity 

Having adopted the magical symbol of the Christian 
God, and finding it successful, Constantine pursued this 
primitive allegiance to its logical end He favored the 
church which represented this God, and allied himself more 
and more with its officers and its teachings. His conver- 
sion was thus a gradual process extending from the war 
with Maxentius, or earlier, and ending only with his last 
illness. Certain episodes mark the stages of this develop- 
ment; the victory over Maxentius, the attainment of sole 
emperorship by the victory over Licinius, 8 and probably 
also the Council of Nicea. In the first two cases the decid- 
ing factor was the success with which the Christian God 

1 Burckhardt, and others, in picturing Constantine as such a man, 
came near creating a modern legendary Constantine as 'the product of 
nineteenth-century free-thought. Cf. infra, p 99 

2 De Mort. Pers., 46. Seeck, in his Untergang d. antiken Welt, accepts 
Lactantms' account of the battle which followed, in every detail, even 
to the successful carrying-out of this plan. 

8 Cf. Seeck, Untergang d antiken Welt, i, pp. 61, 472-3- 


crowned his arms. 1 In neither was the change so great 
as it has usually been considered. To the end of his days 
probably his chief conception of Christianity was that of a 
cult whose prayers and whose emblems ensured the help of 
the supreme heavenly power in military conflicts and politi- 
cal crises, and whose rites guaranteed eternal blessedness. 
Of the inner experiences of Christianity and of the doc- 
trines of that religion, other than the broadest monotheism, 
he seems to have had little conception. 

The great Arian controversy seemed to him " intrinsi- 
cally trifling and of little moment " involving " not any of 
the leading doctrines or precepts of the Divine law " but 
concerning " small and very insignificant questions." 2 
Upon the proper day for observing Easter, however, vital 
issues depended "A discordant judgment in a case of 
such importance and respecting such a religious festival, is 
wrong," " discrepancy of opinion on so sacred a question 
is unbecoming " 3 At the court Easter was celebrated with 
gorgeous ceremonies, and martyr's days and other sacred 
occasions were carefully observed. 4 

5. The Transition from Paganism to Christianity in the 
Roman Empire 

In all of this, Constantine did not differ greatly from the 
current notions of his day, pagan and Christian. Most 
men seem to have been seeking charms to give them success 
in this life and happiness hereafter. Belief in one supreme 

1 Cf. the prayer which Eusebius said was enforced in the army, Life 
of Constantme, iv, 20. 

8 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, ii, 68-71, .reproducing letter to Alex- 
ander and Arius 

8 Op. cit, iii, 18 andl 19, reproducing letter of Constantine respecting 
the Council of Nicea, 

4 Op. at , iv, 22 and 23 


heavenly power, in the future life, and in the necessity of 
expiatory rites, was common to Roman paganism of the 
fourth century, modified as it had become by prevalent in- 
fluences, and to Christianity. 1 

Remembering the presence of numerous Orientals m 
Gaul 2 and Constantine's connection with the cult of the 
sun, 3 the transformation of Roman religious life as de- 
scribed by Cumont is illustrated and confirmed by the case 
of Constantine. " The last formula reached by the religion 
of the pagan Semites and in consequence by that of the 
Romans, was a divinity unique, almighty, eternal, universal 
and ineffable, that revealed itself throughout nature, but 
whose most splendid and most energetic manifestation was 
the sun. To arrive at the Christian monotheism only one 
final tie had to be broken, that is to say, this supreme being, 
resident in a distant heaven, had to be removed beyond the 
world.' 5 * 

" The principal divergence [between Christianity and the 
later Roman paganism] was that Christianity, by placing 

*For the gradual change in the tone of the panegyrists and others 
from polytheism to monotheism, see Pichon, Les derniers crvuams 
profanes, Paris, 1906 A beautiful illustration of this is the peroration 
of the anonymous panegyric delivered before Constantine in Gaul in 
313. Cf. supra, p. 76. It was certainly not a long step for the oraton 
of this occasion instead of .declaring (chap. 2) that Constantine was 
tinder the care of the supreme mind, while other mortals were left to 
the lesser gods, to omit the lesser gods entirely in his peroration. 
Cf. infra, p. 132 et seq , and supra, p. 76, n. 5. 

* Cf. Cumont, Oriental Religions in the Roman Empire, pp. 107 et seq. 
8 Eumenius, Panegyric. Cf. supra, pp. 75-76; Julian, Orat., vii, f. 

228, and numerous coins inscribed -to " Soh Invicti Comiti." See also 
Preger, Konstantinos-Helios, an Hermes, xxxvi, 1901, pp. 457 et seq 

* Op. cit , p 134. Cf. page xxiv. Cf. also p. 288, where Cumont 
quotes with approval Loeschke's statement calling Constantin-e's letters 
"ein merkwurdiges Produkt theologischen Dilletantismus, aufgebaut 
auf im wesentlichen pantheistischer Grundlage mit Hilfe weniger christ- 
licher Termini und fast noch weniger chnstlicher Gedanken " 


God m an ideal sphere beyond the confines of this world, 
endeavored to rid itself of every attachment to a frequently 
abject polytheism. . . . As the religious history of the em- 
pire is studied more closely, the triumph of the church will, 
in our opinion, appear more and more as the culmination 
of a long evolution of beliefs." 

What was true of Constantine was thus in a measure 
true of the Empire at large. Christianity and paganism m 
the fourth century did not constitute two fixed, unchanging, 
irreconcilable enemies. " The upper class were for gener- 
ations far more united by the old social and literary tra- 
dition than they were divided by religious belief. ... In 
truth the line between Christian and pagan was long wav- 
ering and uncertain. We find adherents of the opposing 
creeds side by side even in the same family at the end of 
the fourth century." x 

The later persecutions seem to have been continued more 
by governmental policy than by popular desire. There 
was even a general reaction among the people against this 
policy. Lactantius was able to give as one of the reasons 
why God permitted the persecutions the fact that " great 
numbers are driven from the worship of the false gods by 
their hatred of cruelty." 2 The triumph of Christianity 
was comparatively peaceful and left paganism in many in- 
stances unembittered. " No advocate appeared ; neither 
god nor demon, prophet nor divines, could lend his aid to 
the detected author of the imposture [of paganism ] For 
the souls of men were no longer enveloped in thick dark- 
ness, but enlightened by rays of true godliness, they de- 
plored the ignorance," etc* 

1 Dill, Roman Society, 26. ed, p 13. Cf. also E F. Humphrey, Poli- 
tics and Religion m the Days of Augustine (New York, 1912), pp. 26- 
39, et passim, for the situation at the end of the fourth and beginning 
of the fifth century. Cf also, infra, p 96. 

2 Divine Institutes, v, 24. 

3 Eusebius, Oration in Praise of Constantine, vni, 8 


The religious revolution under Constantine was not 
unique in the history of the empire though it proved to be 
the greatest one. Mithraism and a revival of the cult of 
Apollo had prevailed in the court of Diocletian. Chris- 
tianity came to the front under Constantine, and Neo- 
platonism was fostered by Julian. This oscillation was not 
due entirely to an even balance of power between bitter 
'enemies, but in part, also, to uncertainty and a wavering* 
border line. 

On the pagan side there had long been a movement un- 
consciously leading in the direction of Christianity. Pag- 
anism " after three centuries of Oriental influence . . . 
was no longer like that of ancient Rome, a mere collection 
of propitiatory and expiatory rites performed by the citi- 
zen for the good of the state: it now pretended to offer 
to all men a world conception which gave rise to a rule of 
conduct and placed the end of existence in the future life. 
It was more unlike the worship which Augustus had at- 
tempted to restore than the Christianity that fought it 
The two opposed creeds moved in the same intellectual and 
moral sphere, and one could actually pass from one to the 
other without shock or interruption. . . . The religious 
and mystical spirit of the Orient had slowly overcome the 
whole social organism and had prepared all nations to 
unite in the bosom of a universal church." * 

On the Christian side the sense of irreconcilable con- 
flict between the world and the gospel no longer dominated 
all church life. Belief in the speedy end of the world and 
apocalyptic descriptions of a miraculous millennium, which 
had at first offered to many the only hopeful outcome of 
this conflict, were gradually relegated to the byways of 
ecclesiastical thought. In the third century, the great Alex- 

1 Cumont, Oriental Religions, etc , pp. 210-11 


andrian theologians had completed the reconciliation of 
the new revelation and the old philosophy in an evolution- 
ary interpretation of Christianity. 1 Without surrendering 
its claim to finality or the necessity of the exclusion of all 
other gods and religions from the mind of the believer, the 
new faith found many points of contact and support in 
the growing monotheism of paganism. Nor were the 
Christians, as we have seen, free from the fundamental re- 
ligious notions of the fourth-century piety generally; be- 
lief in magic, in good and evil spirits, m the constant inter- 
ference of the supernatural in human affairs, and in suc- 
cess and victory as the ultimate test of the reality and 
supremacy of the god whose aid was invoked. 2 

The center of Constantine's Christian life and that of 
many of his contemporaries is to be sought, not in any 
theological or moral convictions, but in the identification of 
his fortunes, his luck one might say, with the Christian 
god Eusebius, perhaps unwittingly, tells us as much when 
he closes his " Oration in Praise of Constantme " with the 
tribute of divine revelations to the Emperor: 3 

Yourself, it may be, will vouchsafe at a time of leisure to 
relate to us the abundant manifestations which your Saviour 
has accorded you of his presence, and the oft-repeated visions 
of himself which have attended you in the hours of sleep. I 
speak not of those secret suggestions which to us are unre- 
vealed : but of those principles which he has instilled into your 
own mind, and which are fraught with general interest and 
benefit to the human race. You will yourself relate in worthy 
terms the visible protection which your Divine shield and 
guardian has extended in the hour of battle; the ruin of your 
open and secret foes ; and his ready aid in time of peril. To 

x Cy. the chapters upon the Hellenizing of church theology in Hir- 
nack, Dogmengeschichte. 
2 Cf. infra, pp. 9S-9& 
s Chap. 18. 


him you will ascribe relief in the midst of perplexity, defence 
in solitude, expedients in extremity, foreknowledge of events 
yet future. 

6. Constantme*s Baptism 

Only one contemporary source, Eusebms' Life of Cotv- 
stantine^ distinctly affirms and describes Constantine's en- 
trance into membership in the Christian Church. 1 He is, 
to be sure, spoken of as " pious " and " God-beloved " in 
the Church History, but the same terms are applied to 
Licinius, whom nobody has ever accused of being a Chris- 
tian, and whom Eusebius afterwards likened to " some 
savage beast of prey, or some crooked and wriggling ser- 
pent " 2 In spite of the friendly relations between Con- 
stantine and the church organization, in spite of the part he 
took in the church council at Nicea and possibly at Aries, 
in spite of public proclamations of Christian faith with 
which he is accredited, there is no evidence nor contempor- 
ary report of Constantine's becoming even a catechumen 
until the last few days of his life. For that and his bap- 
tism the only account we have is in his Life by Eusebius. 

Here we are told that the emperor, convinced that his 
end was near, 3 sought purification for the sins of his past 

*iv, 61-64 

2 Church History, 9, i ; Life of Constantine, ii, i. 

3 iv, 61-62. The fact that Constantine was not baptized until his last 
illness does not indicate that he then for the first time accepted Chris- 
tianity. Fear of the penalties inflicted for mortal sin after baptism 
was a powerful motive for the postponement of the rite. In many 
other cases than Constantme's it was deferred till the approach of 
death, and was sometimes even administered upon the sick-bed (clin- 
ical baptism). Constantme's leniency toward the Novatiamsts (cf. Cod. 
Theod.j xvi, 5, 2), who were very rigorous in their treatment of those 
who had " lapsed " after baptism, may possibly be an indication of sym- 
pathy for their position in this respect. On this whole subject, cf. 
Dolger, Konstantm d. Grosse u. s. Zeit, pp. 429-447. 


career in " the mystical words and salutary waters of bap- 
tism ". He prayed " kneeling on the pavement in the 
church itself, in which he also now for the first time re- 
ceived the imposition of hands with prayer " [the process 
of becoming a catechumen]. Meeting the bishops whom 
he had summoned at the suburbs of Nicomedia, he ex- 
plained that he had deferred baptism hoping to have it ad- 
ministered in the river Jordan, but since God decreed 
otherwise he requested it " without delay "* If he were 
destined to recover and associate with the people of God, 
and unite with them m prayer as a member of the church, he 
would prescribe for himself thenceforth such a course of 
life as befitted His service. 

" After he had thus spoken, the prelates performed the 
sacred ceremonies in the usual manner, and having given 
him the necessary instructions, made him a partaker of the 
mystic ordinance. Thus was Constantme the first of all 
sovereigns who was regenerated and perfected in a church 
dedicated to the martyrs of Christ; thus gifted with the 
divine seal of baptism, he rejoiced in spirit, was renewed, 
and filled with heavenly light" 

" At the conclusion of the ceremony he arrayed himself 
in shining imperial vestments, brilliant as the light . . 
refusing to clothe himself with the purple any more " This 
account in the Life of Constantine alone, a source not 
above suspicion, a eulogy rather than a biography, can 
hardly by itself establish the baptism of Constantine as an 
historical certainty. But it is confirmed by the best writers 
of the following generations with some additional facts 
implying independent sources 2 There seems therefore no 

1 Or " hesitation ". 

2 Jerome (Chron , A. Abr.2353) adds that Constantme was baptized by 
Eusebms of Nicomedia ("Constantinus extreme vitae suae tempore ab 
Eusebio Nicomedensi episcopo baptizatus in Arianum dogma declinat ") 


reason to doubt the truth of the narrative, and it is accepted 
by practically all modern historians J 

7. Ethical Aspects of Constantines Life, 

A survey of Constantine's Christianity would not be 
complete unless it took unto account certain ethical as- 
pects of his life and reign which have been occasionally 
cited as proof that he was never at heart really a Chris- 

Criticism of his character from pagan sources was not 
wanting. His vanity was freely commented on. Eutropius, 
Constantine's pagan secretary, and later the friend of 
Julian, criticized his administration after the adoption of 
Christianity, 2 Ammianus Marcellinus complained of his 
prodigality towards his friends. 3 Julian criticized him 
severely in the Caesars for extravagance, minimized his 
achievements, and accused him of luxury and dissolute- 
ness. 4 Zosimus wrote bitterly of his waste of public 
money, 5 of his favors to undeserving persons, and of the 

This may be an Inference from the place vhere the ceremony was per- 
formed, but since Eusebius of Nicomedia was not orthodox, one is led 
to think Jerome would not have given his name without direct evidence 
calling for it Inasmuch as Jerome, apparently, did net use the story 
of Constantine's conversion through a miraculous vis-ion, and other 
episodes from Eusebius' Life of Constantino which would naturally 
appeal to him, it may be that he did not even know this work Cf. also 
Mommsen, Chtonica mmora, i, p 235. 

1 For a complete and scholarly summary of the overwhelming evi- 
dence for the baptism of Constantine, cf. F. J. Dolger, "Die Taufe 
Konstantins u. ihre Probleme," in Konsfantin d. Grosse u. s. Zeit (1913), 
PP 381-394 

2 x, 6 and 7 (ed. Ruehl, Leipsic, 1887) : "In primo Imperil tempore 
optimis principibus, ultimo mediis comparandus, " "Interfecit num- 
eros amicos. '* 

* xvi, 8 : " Proximorum fauces aperuit primus omnium Constantinus." 

4 Cf. infra , pp. 124-127 5 Book i. 


crushing burden of taxation imposed by him. J He 
closes his account of Constantine with a register of his 
weaknesses, mistakes and crimes. In the Epitome under 
the name of Sextus Aurelius Victor the first ten years of 
Constantine's reign are praised, in the next twelve he is 
said to have been a robber, and in the last ten a dotard 
on account of his enormous squandering. 2 

Some of these criticisms are supported by the evidence 
of Christian writers, also, especially the indictment of 
extravagance and favoritism, 3 which seems to have been 
amply warranted by the facts. 4 

One fixed standard of Christianity, one of its cardinal 
requirements, chastity, Constantine apparently frequently 
violated. Heathen panegyrists praised him, indeed, for 
his chastity and his conduct toward women in his cam- 
paigns. 5 Julian, however, in his Caesars accused him of 
living luxuriously and dissolutely in time of peace. 6 If 
this be set down as malicious gossip, it is reinforced by 
the rather infrequent and perfunctory praise by Christian 
writers, 7 where, had there been an opportunity, we would 
expect extravagant praise and jubilant comparison with 

x Book ii, chap. 38, ed. Bekker (Bonn 1837), p. 104 

3 Trachala [from the Greek, rpn^aAfif, one of Constantme's epithets] 
decem praestantissimus, duodecun sequentibus latro, decem novissimis 
pupillus ob immodicas profusiones," chap. 41. 

3 Eusebms, Life of Constantine, i, 43; iv, i; 4, 31; 54 and 55. 

*For one of the fullest recent characterizations of Constantine see 
Seeck, Geschichte des Untergangs der antiken Welt., i, pp. 45-75. 

* Incerti auctoris panegyncus Maximiano et Constantino dictus (307) , 
chap, iv, in Migne, P. L., vni, col. 612; Incerti Panegyncus (313), 
chap, vn, in Migne, P. L., vin, col. 660, and chap, xvii, col. 667; 
Nazanus panegymcus (321), chap, xxxiv, in Migne, P. L., vni, col. 

6 Cf. infra, p. 125. 

1 JSg. Eusebius, Oration in Praise of Constantine : , v, 4. 


heathen emperors. The fact seems to be that his oldest 
son Crispus was the son of a concubine, Minervina, 1 and 
that either Constantius or Constantine II, born within a 
few months of each other, was also illegitimate. Seeck 
gives some evidence that he was not free from irregular 
relations during most of the time of his marriage with 
Fausta, 307-3 26." 

In another respect also Constantine deviated from the 
standards of primitive Christianity and the standard of 
the better Christians of his own day. He was exces- 
sively fond of display and his vanity was notorious. 
Most of his panegyrists, doubtless with assurance of his 
approval, mingled their outrageous flattery with praise 
of his personal appearance. He was the first emperor 
to be pictured wearing a diadem. He adorned himself 
with gems, bracelets, jewelled collars, robes with em- 
broidered gold, 3 and even with false hair of different 
colors. 4 

The most telling indictment of Constantine, however, 
grows out of the execution of certain persons closely 
related to him, such as Licinius, his colleague and 
brother-in-law, Crispus his son, and Fausta his wife. 5 

1 Zosimus, ii, 20, 2; Viet. Epit., 41,4; Zonaras, xiii. Eusebius by ig- 
noring Crispus entirely in his Life of Constantine (Cf. iv, 40 and 49), 
though he had written very highly of him in his Church History (x, 9, 
4) , may have been influenced by the fact that Crispus was illegitimate, 
as well as by the fact that he had been executed by his father's orders. 

2 Untergang d. antiken Welt., i, 476; iii, 425; iv, 3, 377. 

3 Caricatured by Julian in the Caesars, cf. infra, p. 126. 

* Cf. Gibbon, Dechne and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. Bury, ii, 
205; Richardson in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second series, vol. 
i, Eusebius, p. 427. Eusebius speciously covers the real facts of his 
gorgeous descriptions by ascribing a superior mental attitude to the 
emperor. Life of Constantine, iii, 10; Oration in Praise of Constan- 
e, 5, 6. 
6 To complete the list of executions in his family there could be 


The execution of Licinius in 325, a year or two after he 
had surrendered upon promise of security, was by pagan 
writers and hostile historians called a violation of faith. 
By early Christian writers and by friendly historians it 
was ascribed to the continual plotting of Licinius which 
made his death necessary. z The execution of Crispus and 
Fausta has been attributed by some to their adultery, by 
some to a false accusation against Crispus by Fausta, 
and the subsequent crime of the latter, and by others to 
family dissensions and sultanism such as occurred in the 
case of Herod the Great. 2 

added the earlier death of his father-in-law, Maximianus, of another 
broth er-in. law, Bassianus, and the later execution of his nephew, son 
of Licinius and Constantia (though this son of Licinius was perhaps 
illegitimate) . Even if all of these executions were justifiable, as some 
of them certainly were, it is an appalling list. 

l Cf. Fast^ of Hydatius in Mommsen: Chromca mtnora, i, p. 232; 
Eutropius, x, 6, i: Zosimus, ii, 28, 2 and n, 29: the last two look at it 
as a violation of Constantine' s oath made when Licinius surrendered; 
Eusebius, L^fe of Constantine, ii, 18: Anon. Vales., v, 29: Socrates, 
Church ttstory, i, 4' Zonarus, xiii, all four of whom exoneiate Con- 
stantme of any violation of faith. Seeck, Untergang der antiken Welt, 
vol. i, p. 183, holds that the execution was necessary, and forced on 
Constantine by his army. 

' a For the execution of Crispus and of Fausta, see Seeck, "Die Ver- 
wandtenmorde Constantms des Grossen," Ztsch. /. wiss. TheoL, xxxni 
(1890), 63 et seq., and his Untergang der antiken Welt, in chapters 
devoted to Constantine. For list of evidences see Seeck, Untergang 
der antiken Welt, iii, 424-5, and add to that list Philostorgius, Church 
History, epitomized by Photius, Book n, chapter 4; Ammianus Marcel- 
linus, xiv, 6; see also Bury's discussion m his edition of Gibbon: Dechne 
and Fall of the Roman Empire, ii, 558. Eusebius ignores the whole 
matter, but in two lists of the emperor's sons, which he gives after Con- 
stantine's death (Lzfe of ConstantTne, iv, 40 and 49), he omits Cnspus en- 
tirely, thus implying his official execution. Monuments and other me- 
morials (e. g., C. I. L., 10, 517) have been discovered with Crispus' 
name erased, thus strengthening the theory of his disgrace. 

It has been maintained by some, even recently, that Fausta was not 
executed at all but was living as late as 340, three years after Constan- 


It is, however, hard to see how the obscure question 
of the guilt of those executed and of the motives of the 
emperor has any bearing on the religious question. If 
the executions were unjustifiable they would be con- 
demned by a pagan as much as by a Christian conscience ; 
if they were in the mind of Constantme unavoidable there 
was nothing in either his Christianity or his paganism to 
prevent them. No one could argue from the execution 
of Don Carlos, that Philip II of Spain professed pagan- 
ism rather than Christianity. These family crimes, 
whether Constantine's or his victims, may show that he 
was suspicious or cruel, or difficult to get along with, 

tine's death Gibbon hazarded this as a possibility (Decline and Fall, 
etc ,ed Bury, 11, pp 211-212). Ranke (Weltgeschichte, hi, 521 asserts it, 
as does Victor Schultze, Zeitsch. f K. G. y vin, p 534, followed by Boyd: 
Ecclesiastical Edicts of the Iheodosian Code (Columbia Univ. Studies, 
etc.) vol. xxxiv), p. 17. The evidence upon which this view was based 
does not compare in amount with the evidence on the other side and is 
extremely faulty, the principal pieces being the fact that Julian Orat , i 
(p. 10 ed., Hertlein) eulogizes Fausta as he would not have done had 
she been executed and guilty of a crime (her guilt is not necessarily 
involved in the question) and the existence of the Anonymi Monodia 
(ed. Frotscher Anon. Gtaeci oratio funebns, Freiberg, i. S., 1855) 
formerly supposed to be (and so labeled in one MS ) a funeral oration 
on Constantme, the eldest son of Constantine the Great killed in 340. 
This explicitly states that the mother of the dead prince survived him; 
but it has been clearly proved to be a much later writing and to refer to 
some Byzantine emperor late in the Middle Ages. (Seeck, Zeitsck. /. 
Wiss. Theol.y 1890, p. 64); Wordsworth: "Constantme the Great and 
his Sons": "Constantius i," m Smith and Wace: Diet., i,(i877), P- 630; 
Bury, in op. cit., ii, p 534. A heretofore neglected bit of evidence lies 
in a letter in Eusebms' Life of Constantine, in, 52, purporting to be 
from Constantine, referring to the benefit of information given him by 
his "truly pious mother-m-law " (Eutropia, mother of Fausta), evi- 
dently after the execution of Fausta. This would seem to tend either 
to disprove the execution or to justify it; in view of the other evidence 
probably the latter. Seeck: Die Verwandtenmorde Constantms des 
Grossen, pp. 63-77, holds the execution of both Crispus and Fausta to 
have been caused by their joint misconduct. 


and hence they may affect our judgment of his character, 
and of the kind of Christianity he experienced ; but they 
do not prove that he did or did not profess Christianity. 
In view of all the foregoing, it will be seen that it is 
easy to pronounce harsh judgment on Constantine. 
One of the foremost of present-day writers upon the 
period says, " The personal morality of the first emperor, 
who, though not a Christian, at least died as a baptized 
Christian, was not much above that of an oriental 
sultan.'* x Not to pause over the question whether even 
an " oriental sultan" may not have a high standard of 
personal morality, the implied criticism has much justi- 
fication. Yet it must be remembered that Constantine 
compared more than favorably with the other emperors 
of his century. Moreover, judging from Christian writ- 
ings of the time which have been preserved, it may be 
doubted whether the ethical element of that religion 
was emphasized then as much as it is usually assumed to 
have been emphasized. 2 So far as we can judge, Con- 
stantine conceived his own service of the Supreme God 
to be chiefly by way of promoting his cult and his 
church, and to this task he was true. 

8. Summary 

If our interpretation of the evidence be correct, the 
answer to the question of Constantine's religious position 
would be about as follows : He was at first a pagan in- 
clined toward monotheism, and friendly in his attitude 
toward the Christians. In his government he extended 
more and more favors and privileges to the Christians, 
and before 323 put Christianity on a level with official 

1 Schwartz, Kaiser Constanttn u. d. chnsthche Kirche, p. 70. 
* Eg cf. the course of the whole Arian controversy as told by Soc- 
rates and other continuators of Eusebms. Cf. also, infra, p. 102. 


paganism. After 323, when he was sole emperor, he 
used his imperial influence very extensively for Christi- 
anity and against paganism. 1 Personally, he allied him- 
self to the Church organization, without joining himself 
to it, associated intimately with Christian priests, took 
part in councils and identified himself in sympathy with 
church affairs so far as ceremonies and preservation 
of unity were concerned. He professed belief in that re- 
ligion as a whole, in the lordship of the Christian God 
over the world, in his revelation through Christ, and in 
his providence over his people. He believed that his 
own remarkable successes were miraculously furthered 
by his use of Christian symbols and by his course toward 
the church. He was by no means above reproach in 
either his private or public life. He probably prepared 
for death by a resolution to live a better and more Chris- 
tian life if he recovered from his illness, and by entering 
the church through a momentary catechumenate and 
through baptism. 

The importance of Constantine's religious develop- 
ment for the light it throws on the history of religion 
has generally been obscured by the emphasis put upon 
the profitless question, impossible to answer, whether his 
real motives were political or sincerely religious. There 
are few men of the fourth century, that critical century in 
the history of religion in Europe, about whom we have 
so much information, reliable and otherwise. I believe 
that the more this information is studied from the point 
of view first mentioned, the more it will tend to con- 
firm the theory that Christianity did not come down 
into the middle ages through the Roman Empire like 
a knife cutting through some foreign substance, but 
that it entered into the complex of imperial religious 

1 Cf. in addition to references given supra, Euseblus, Life of Con- 
stantine, 11, 23 , 27. 


life along with other oriental influences and came out, 
the dominant religion of Europe, by way of a very gen- 
eral synthesis. 1 The Christian writers upon whom 
church historians have relied as their sources over- 
emphasized contrasts and did not realize this synthesis, 
unconscious as it largely was. We recognize that pagan 
stories about the early Christians were slanders ; it is be- 
coming generally recognized that many of the early 
Catholic stories about the heretics were slanders; it is 
very probable that many of the Christian stories about 
the pagans, emphasizing the contrast between the two 
religions, were slanders. Stories of the conversion, the 
piety and sainthood of Constantine have their reverse 
side in sensational denunciations of pagans in such books 
as Lactantius' De Mo^bus Persecutorum, and in many 
paragraphs in other writings. 3 The contrast between 
religions seems to have been overdrawn as much as was 
the contrast between the character and deaths of their 
several champions. 

1 There was not a great deal of difference between Constantine con- 
sulting the omens at the Temple of Apollo at Autun, and Constantine 
seeking miraculous guidance in battle in his tabernacle as described by 
Eusebms, cf. supra, p. 76; infra, pp. 134-135. Nor did Aquilmus, the 
Christian, who sought cure for his sickness by spending the night at a 
Christian temple (Sozomen li, 3) differ greatly from those who slept in 
the temple of Esculapms (Eusebms, Life of Constantine, lii, 56) . In fact 
in some localities the transition from paganism to Christianity seems to 
have been facilitated by Christianizing pagan shrines and retaining meth- 
ods of healing and divination used by the pagan priests and oracles, 
adopting, however, the name of some saint or angel recognized by the 
Christians. The church at which Aquilmus was healed had formerly 
been a famous miracle-working shrine. Ct. Mary Hamilton, Incuba- 
tion, or the Cure of Disease ^n Pagan Temples and Christian Churches 
(1906), pp. 109-118, 138-140 et passim. 

3 Cf for instance, the account of Galenus' death, Lactantius, op. cit., 
chap. 33 ; the death of Maximmus in Eusebius Church History, ix, 10, 
14-15; the death of the heretic Anus, in Socrates, Church History -, 
i, 38. For a discussion of the last mentioned, see Seeck, Untergang d. 
antiken Welt, ni, p. 426 et seq., p. 438 et seq. 





I. Significance of, Legends about Constantine 

THE part which Constantine actually played in the re- 
ligious revolution of the fourth century is scarcely more 
significant than the place taken in that and subsequent times 
by legends about him. Even in his own generation, it was 
not only the actual emperor, but the emperor as idealized, 
that influenced the thoughts of men and the course of 
events. Few men at the time tried honestly to discriminate 
between the two. After the lapse of sixteen centuries this 
discrimination, though the necessity for it is recognized, is 
exceedingly difficult Many of those who discard in largest 
measure material from earlier writers as legendary have 
unquestionably created from the remainder a Constantine 
as legendary as that one described by their predecessors 
Such has Burckhardt's Constantine been shown to be; a 
Machiavellian prince who had no conviction but that of his 
own destiny, a cold, clear-sighted, free-thinking, ambitious 
statesman, rising to supreme power by playing with the 
religious faiths of his subjects, a being who existed only 
on the pages of over-skeptical historical critics, and yet a 
powerful influence upon the thought of a whole generation. 

Even if we should be fortunate enough accurately to dis- 
tinguish the real facts from legends, the latter so long domi- 
nated the thought of the world that they have become a 
99] 99 


part of history. 1 Their origin and acceptance, also, bring 
into clear relief the intellectual life of the ages through 
which they have come to us. 

2 Lack of the Historical Spirit in the Time of Constantine 

The early and luxurious growth of legends about Con- 
stantine is explained partly by the relative weakness of the 
investigative and historical spirit of the Romans. History 
among them never reached the position of an independent 
science. In the educational curriculum it formed a sub- 
classification under rhetoric. 2 Rhetorical schools, not 
formal histories, were the chief means of instructing new- 
comers to Rome in history. 3 It was only natural that his- 
torical incidents were generally distorted for rhetorical pur- 
poses, and that it became the fashion in imperial times to 
incorporate manufactured documents when authentic ones 
were not at hand 4 

There seems to have been something of an historical re- 
vival in the time of Diocletian and Constantine. But this 
was in no sense scientific, it was not even spontaneous. The 
Scnptores Historiae Augustae, for instance, while pretend- 
ing independence and impartiality, were in part imitators 

1 For in illuminating discussion of the part of legends in the history 
of the world, cf. Dunning, "Truth in History," Am. Hist. Rev. xxix 
(1914), PP. 217-229. 

2 Cf. Cicero, de leg. i, 2, 5, and de or. 2, 9, 36. 

3 H. Peter Die Geschichthche Litteratur uber die romische Kaiser zeii 
bis Theodosius I, und ihre Quellen, i, 10, 61-64 

4 For illustrations on a wholesale scale, ibid., i, 248. Cf. from an- 
other point of view, 0. Seeck. "Urkundensfalschung des 4n Jahrhun- 
derts," Zeitschr. f. K. G., xxx, (1909, June), p. 181. Cf. also, H. Peter, 
Wahrheit und Kunst Geschichtschreibung und Plagiat in klassischen 
Altertum, Leipzig, 1911, Reitzenstem, Hellenisttsche Wunderersah- 
lunger, 1906. 


of Suetonius, in part mere rhetoricians, and in part sub- 
sidized flatterers of the reigning monarch. 

Diocletian, a soldier and statesman of first rank, was a 
crude patron of letters and Constantine followed in his foot- 
steps. 1 The most notable expression of revived interest in 
literary and historical matters was the rebirth of Roman 
rhetoric. Gaul was one of its greatest seats, and the pane- 
gyric was its most characteristic utterance. 2 Fifty-three 
panegyrics from between 289 and 321 have come down 
from Gaul, mostly from Treves. a Nazarius and Eumenius, 
two* of the leading lights among these rhetoricians, eulo- 
gized Constantine in more than one rhetorical flight. Euse- 
bius, in the East, went even beyond them in praise of his 
royal patron Peter's criticism of imperial Roman biog- 
raphies holds true of much of this panegyrical rhetoric. 
u Amid the confusion of petty, insignificant details, errors, 
exaggerations, careless and malignant fabrications, all judg- 
ment and ability to distinguish between the possible and 
the impossible was lost. People believed, without asking 
the question whether it was possible or not, whether it was 
true or not." * 

Constantine's imperial influence did not improve histor- 
ical standards. Not a highly-educated man, 5 he was notor- 

1 Peter . Gesch. Litt., i, 95-96. 

* For school at Autun, and Eumenius, see 'G. Block in Lavisse * His- 
toire de France, vol. i, part ii (1900), pp. 388-398. Translated in part 
in Munro & Sellery: Medieval Civilization. 

* Peter: Gesch. Litt, i, 46-49, 95. 

* i, ISO- 

5 Julian, Or. 2> 94 a. p. 102 H.; Aurelms Victor, Caes, 40, 13, 
Eusebius, Life of Constantine, iii, 13 (where the emperor ad- 
dressed the Council of Nicea, an eastern assembly, in Latin, and used 
a Greek interpreter) iv, 32; Exc. Val. 2, 2 ("litteris minus in- 
structus ") , Anon. Vales, p. 471 , Cedrenus, p. 473. 


iously vain 1 Judging by the panegyrics to -which he lis- 
tened and which he praised and rewarded, he encouraged 
the wildest flights of legend-breeding imagination. 

Historical writing among the Christians was as unre- 
liable as among the pagans of the empire. Forgeries, pres- 
ent in religious writings of the heathen, were equally num- 
erous in Christian writings Even the leading bishops 
were " ready to prove the truth of their faith by lies." 2 

3. Incentives to Legend-Making 

Incentives to embellish Constantine's career with touches 
of imagination were, from the first, very strong. The im- 
perial throne always distorted accounts of the character 
and career of one who occupied it by intensifying all the 
lights and shadows. In this particular case there were 
pagan writers to do injustice to a Christian ruler. But 
most of all, there were Christians whose imagination was 
quickened by the emergence of their church from persecu- 
tion into full religious liberty and even to supremacy in 
the state. They beheld the change wrought, moreover, 
not through any struggle and victory of their own, but 
through the wonderful military achievements of one who, 
always fighting against odds, never knew defeat; a con- 
queror who raised the church from the dust and honored 
her in the imperial court. 

Every apprehension of the evils under the pressure of which 
all had suffered was now removed; men whose heads had 
drooped in sorrow now regarded each other with smiling coun- 
tenances, and looks expressive of inward joy. With proces- 

1 Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Eusebius, p. 427; Victor, Epitome, 
61, 63, (Antwerp edition 1579) p. 51; Eutropius, 10, 7; Eunapius Vit* 
aedes, p. 41, (Amst. 1822). 

2 Seeck, Untergang d. antiken Welt, iii, 210-212, 431 et seq., with 
specific illustrations from Ambrose of Milan and Athanasius. 


sions and hymns of praise they first of all, as they were told, 
ascribed the supreme sovereignty to God, as in truth the King 
of Kings: and then with continued acclamations rendered 
honor to the victorious emperor, and the Caesars, his most dis- 
creet and pious sons. The former afflictions were forgotten 
and all past impieties forgiven, while with the enjoyment of 
present happiness was mingled the expectation of continued 
blessings in the future. 1 

Thus the final victory of Constantine and Christianity 
over persecution and Paganism fired the imagination of 
those who were to make the history and the legends of the 
future. A state dinner at the council of Nicea gave the 
church historian an overpowering contrast between the 
days of tribulation and of triumph: "detachments of the 
body guard and other troops surrounded the entrance of 
the palace with drawn swords, and through the midst of 
these the men of God proceeded without fear [only a few 
years before, most of them had been criminals in the eyes 
of the law] into the innermost of the imperial apartments, 
in which some were the emperor's own companions at table, 
while others reclined on couches arranged on either side. 
One might have thought that a picture of Christ's king- 
dom was thus shadowed forth, and a dream rather than a 
reality." 2 

European civilization turned on the axis of this man's 
reign. It is no wonder that he received the tribute of in- 
numerable legends. The desire to know and to tell more 
than the plain facts about such a great man, the curiosity 

1 Eusebius : Life of Constantine, ii, 19. 

z lbid. f hi, 15. It is perhaps worthy of note that this reflection came 
to Eusebius at the imperial banquet rather than during the delibera- 
tions of the council. He also rather naively remarks that "not one 
of the bishops was wanting at the imperial banquet." 


which in other circles bred a host of legends about Alex- 
ander the Great, and Charlemagne, created legends about 
Constantme. They began in the emperor's lifetime and 
as the worldly greatness increased to which Constan- 
tine opened the door for the church, these legends also de- 
veloped. Through his triumphal arch at Rome there 
marched, no longer Roman soldiers but Christian priests 
whose fervor pictured the victor in strangely distorted per- 

For them a great religious revolution had been wrought, 
and the more wonderful they made it, the more it accorded 
with their inner feelings. This gave a peculiar impetus to 
the legend-making process. For the emotional stress con- 
nected with religious movements seems more fruitful of 
legends than any other, more even than the emotion of pa- 
triotic and family pride. Think, for instance, of the swarm 
of legends which developed about early Buddhism, Chris- 
tianity, and Mohammedanism. Almost every religious 
change, such as the introduction of a new religion, gives 
rise to a penumbra of this sort. The explanation is un- 
doubtedly to be found not only in the general credulity of 
the; ages m which such changes take place, if indeed this 
can be proved, but also in the character of the emotional 
and mental activity attending religious agitation and de- 
votion. Religion, finding its explanation of human life 
and fortunes in the will of God or gods, encourages the 
embellishment of events with providential wonders. In 
this realm the mysterious and the inexplicable becomes ac- 
cepted as self-evident fact. 1 

Many religions emphasize truth But this must usually 
be understood as meaning, not historical or scientific truth, 
as these terms are used to-day, but as another term for the 

1 Cf. H. Delehaye, The Legends of the Saints, London, 1907. 


content of the teaching of these several religions. In 
Christian documents, for instance, the word " truth " is 
used not so much in the former as in the latter sense ; it is 
often synonymous with the revealed content of Christian 
teaching, with the " gospel "- 1 

At times one is tempted to think that the love of truth, 
which is the basis of all genuine historical criticism, and 
of all other scientific work as well, is a comparatively mod- 
ern product. It almost seems as if it were a new faculty 
acquired in the slow evolution of the human mind. If this 
be too strong a statement, born of impatience at the occa- 
sional audacity and success of legend-makers, a study of 
the Constantinian legends shows that many former gen- 
erations, when plain historical facts lay ready at hand, pre- 
ferred to create and accept fanciful stories. , 

It is perhaps invidious to designate individual writers 
in this connection, for most legends are the product of 
many minds, the work of whole generations rather than of 
isolated persons. Those who bore a conspicuous part in 
the making of the legends about Constantine will be dis- 
cussed later in connection with these legends. Two men, 
however, are so pre-eminently conspicuous in the process 
that they require mention here, namely, Constantine him- 
self, and Eusebius, his first biographer. 

4. Constantine' s Part in the Process 

The legend of Constantine's descent from Claudius 2 
and of his hereditary right to the imperial purple was so 
obviously to his own advantage that it is only reasonable to 

1 Cf articles on atydcta in Moulton & Geddes, Concordance to the 
Greek New Testament; Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New 
Testament; Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament 

2 Cf. infra, pp 112-115. 


assume that it was promulgated at his instance. Legends 
of miraculous manifestations and of his extraordinary piety 
may also, with considerable probability, be laid at his door. 
Eusebms repeatedly ascribed extraordinary statements of 
that nature to the emperor. Though his assurances to the 
reader that he merely repeated imperial utterances are not 
altogether convincing, one can not but suspect Constan- 
tme of being aware how greatly the good bishop was awed 
in his ruler's presence, and how easy and pleasant it would 
be to create an exaggerated idea of his own Christian de- 
votion. 1 The most famous instance of this is the story of 
the miraculous conversion of Constantme, which Eusebius 
assures us the emperor told him and confirmed with an 
oath. 2 I am inclined to believe that Eusebius' account of 
this conversion was not wholly his own invention, for his 
own earlier version of the facts, which he had already 
given out m the Church History, was quite inconsistent! 
with the story of the miraculous conversion. 

Stories of the miraculous protection of the special guard 
who surrounded and defended the divine standard in battle, 
with which Eusebius says the emperor regaled him, 3 may 
well record the emperor's superstitious attitude toward 
this wonderful charm, but they bear the marks, also, of 
exaggeration common to the tales which men of war often 
tell to men of peace. 

For he said that once, during the very heat of an engagement, 
a sudden tumult and panic attacked his army, which threw 
the soldier who then bore the standard into an agony of fear, 
so that he handed it over to another, in order to secure his own 
escape from the battle. As soon, however, as his comrade had 

of Constantme, iii, 60; 61; 62; iv, 33-36. 

2 Ibid., i, 28-29. Cf. supra, pp. 77~79> and mfra, pp. 136-140. 

3 Eusebius : Life of Constantine t ii, 7-9. 


received it, and he had withdrawn and resigned all charge of 
the standard, he was struck in the belly by a dart, which took 
his life. Thus he paid the penalty of his cowardice and un- 
faithfulness, and lay dead on the spot; but the other, who had 
taken his place as the bearer of the salutary standard, found 
it to be the safeguard of his life. For though he was assailed 
by a continual shower of darts, the bearer remained unhurt, 
the staff of the standard receiving every weapon. It was in- 
deed a truly marvellous circumstance, that the enemies' darts 
all fell within and remained in the slender circumference of 
this spear, and thus saved the standard-bearer from death ; so 
that none of those engaged in this service ever received a 
wound. Tins story is none of mine, but for this, too, I am in- 
debted to the emperor's own authority, who related it in my 
hearing along with other matters. 

That Constantine was not averse to receiving credit for 
religious virtues even on contradictory counts is shown, if 
we can accept Eusebius' rendering of his conversation and 
his speeches, by his advancing in one place a claim to life- 
long possession of Christian piety, and in another place 
describing his radical and sudden conversion to that re- 
ligion. 1 

5. Eusebius of Caesarea 

But making all allowance for the assistance of the em- 
peror, Eusebius himself in his Oration in Praise of Con>- 
stantine and his Life of Constantine was the chief creator 
of the legend of a saintly emperor. Of the former of 
these, the author himself said in the latter, 2 " we have 
woven, as it were, garlands of words, wherewith we en- 
circled his sacred head in his own palace on his thirtieth 

1 Eusebius, Oration of Constantine to the Assembly of the Saints 
(the Easter Sermon), chap. 26; Life of Constantine, ii, 49 and 51; 
i, 27. Compare these with Life of Constantine, i, 28-32. 

2 Chapter i. 


anniversary " The first part * is a eulogy of Constantme's 
devoutness and religious leadership, and of the magical 
efficacy of the " salutary sign " by which he conquered, 
mingled with analogies of Christianity in the natural 
world The last part, often considered a separate oration, 
is a general exposition of the true doctrine of God and of 
the incarnation of the Word The first part alone concerns 
us. It is a panegyric which from the point of view of his- 
torical trustworthiness is not superior to the low level of 
the time to which it belongs. Extravagant in its praises 
almost to the point of blasphemy, 2 its statements are often 
gross exaggerations, 3 and above all it violently twists all 
of Constantine's motives into the most unselfish prompt- 
ings of saintliness. 4 Eusebius shows in Constantine noth- 
ing but a superstitious holy-man who turned his own cham- 
bers into an oratory, and his household into a church, and 
who had oft repeated visions of the Saviour. 5 

The viciousness of this one-sided eulogy is modified by 
the fact that Eusebius himself gives notice m the prologue 
that he proposes not a narrative of "merely human merits" 
or " merely human accomphsments " but " those virtues of 
the emperor which heaven itself approves, and his pious 
actions." He wants to " close the doors against every pro- 
fane ear, and unfold, as it were, the secret mysteries of our 
emperor's character to the initiated alone " He thus frankly 

1 Chapters i-x. 

* Eg i, 3 and ix, 18, compared with Constantine's domestic tragedies. 

3 Eg. i, 3; 8, 9; 9, 10 compared with actual law on -Sunday Cod. 
Theod ii, 8, i and Cod. Just, iii, 12, 3 

4 iii, 5 and 6 attribute Constantine's overthrow of Diocletian's sys- 
tem and his attainment of sole rulership to an imitation of God's sole 
and undivided government of the universe, i, 6, and v, 5-7 attribute 
his gorgeous apparel to popular demand which he himself despised. 

"MX ii, 18. 


avows his intention of painting upon the background of 
Constantino's career, the traits of an ideal Christian em- 
peror for the edification of a Christian assembly. It may 
contain historical truth, but that is not its main purpose 
It intentionally ushers us into the realm of legend. 

The same is true of the Life of Const antine written 
shortly after the emperor's death, 1 and in places built upon 
material from the Oration. 2 There is more historical ma- 
terial in the later work but its tone is the same as that of the 
earlier. Eusebius not only extols Constantine as the di- 
vinely-appointed emperor to whose elevation no man con- 
tributed, 3 but attributes to him repeated, direct, and mir- 
aculous revelations of God, who " frequently vouchsafed 
to him manifestations of himself, the divine presence, ac- 
cording to him manifold intimations of future events." * 
It is a serious question how much reliance to place even in 
the speeches, laws and letters of Constantine embodied in 
the Life, occasionally with professions that they are copied 
from documents in Constantine's own handwriting or with 
his signature. 5 This ostensibly original material was sav- 
agely attacked along with the general reliability of the Life, 
by Crivellucci, in i888, 6 and by H. Peter in 1897^ an( i ^ e 

2 Cf. ix, 8; vin; ix, 15; ix, 17 of the Oration with Book li, 
16; in, 54, 55; iii, 50 and hi, 41 of the Life respectively. The notes 
in the English translation in the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, 
Eusebius, pp. 591 and 593 make the strange mistake of assuming that 
the Oration uses the Life, though the former was written first and is 
mentioned in the latter. 

3 1,24 M, 47- 5 ii, 47J n, 23. 

Storia della relasione tra lo stato e la chiesa, vol. i, appendix, 
" Delia fede storia di Eusebio nella vita di Costantino." He calls it a 
historical novel. 

7 Die geschichtliche Litteratur uber die rdmische Kaiserselt bis 
Theodosius I und ihre Quellen. He calls it " methodical falsification 
of history," i, 249-250, 405 et seq. 


worthlessness of these documents was assumed by 
Mommsen and by Seeck. Benjamin in Pauly-Wissowa, 
Real Encyclopadie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, 
wrote summarily, " The original documents [of the Life 
of Constantine] are almost all forged or highly question- 
able." x Gorres calls it inferior to the panegyrics of Eu- 
menius and Nazarius, and Manso says it is " more shame- 
less and lying " than they. Seeck, however, completely 
changed his view by i898, 2 and in the later edition of his 
Untergang der antiken Welt used all of the original docu- 
ments in the Life of Constantine as genuine in accordance 
with his declaration "Eusebius' reproduction of original 
documents has been freed from every suspicion." * 
Schultze in his " Quellenuntersuchungen zur Vita Constan- 
tim des Eusebius/' 4 occupies commendable middle ground 
in submitting each of the questioned documents to thor- 
ough scrutiny with the result that some, e. g , the Edict 
to the Provincials of Palestine, 5 are rejected as forgeries 6 
and some are accepted as genuine. 7 The list of questioned 
documents is a long one, 8 but the case against many of 
them seems weak d There are, however, statements in 
others which show that they either are forgeries or con- 

1 See Article, Constantin. 

2 " Die Urkunden der Vita 'Constantmi," in Zeitsch. /. K. G., xviii, pp. 

*Zeitsch. f. K. G., xxx (1909), p. 183. 

4 In Zeitsch. f. K. G., xiv (1894), p. 503 et seq. 

5 Life of Constantine ii, 24-42. 

6 In this particular case by a later hand than that of Eusebius. 

7 Eg. compare Life of Constantine iv, 26 and Cod. Theod. viii, 16, i. 

8 ii, 23-42 * h, 46 : ii, 48-60 ii, 64-72 : iii, 17-20 : iii, 30-32 : iii, 52-53 : 
iii, 60 iii, 61 iii, 62 iii, 64-65 : iv, 9-13 : iv, 20 : iv, 35 : iv, 36 
iv, 42 . Appendix Oration to the Saints 

9 There is no reason, for instance, for rejecting the letter of Con- 
stantine to the churches after the Council of Nicea, iii, 17-20. 


tain interpolations. 1 The work, moreover, contains rather 
more than Eusebius' usual proportion of minor inaccur- 
acies. 2 His Church History must of course be judged in- 
dependently of his eulogies. It was, for the time, a mag- 
nificent historical work. The panegyrists of the fourth 
century, however, and Eusebius is no exception, did not 
hold themselves up to even the relatively low standard of 
truthfulness that prevailed in their day for historical writ- 
ings. They offer a curious parallel to the writers of the 
Italian renaissance, who were not without merit as his- 
torians but whose literary invectives against each other 
were pure works of art, not to be believed under oath. The 
Life of Constantine has been well called an evidence of 
Eusebius' " enthusiastic admiration for what he consid- 
ered the good actions of the deceased emperor, and of his 
skill in disguising the others No trace is found there of 
the murder of Crispus and that of Fausta; the author has 
discovered a way of telling the story of the Councils of 
Nicea and of Tyre, and the ecclesiastical events connected 
with them, without even mentioning the names of Athana- 
sius and of Arius. It is a triumph of reticence, and of cir- 
cumlocution." 3 

*Eg. iv, 9-13, letter to the king of Persia, under the (later) head 
ing of Sapor, confuses Sapor II the grandson of Narses and the 
contemporary of Constantine with Sapor I, the predecessor of Narses. 
Cf. also li, 51 where Constantine says he was a boy, " Ko/wd? tralg ," at 
the outbreak of the Diocletian persecution. Cf. also supra, pp. 53 et seq. 

2 Cf. li, 3 with i, 50, and both with the Church History, x, 8 and Mc- 
Giffert's note on this last passage in the N. & P. N. F. translation, iv, 53 
purporting to be exact, overstates Constantine's reign by about a year, 
iv, 5 and 6 probably has "Scythians" for "Goths"; no such war 
against the Scythians is known, iv, 2 and 3 contradicts the well 
known financial pressure of Constantine's reign, iii, 21 and 66 en- 
tirely misstate the theological situation by representing that peace 
reigned after the Council of Nicea. 

8 Duchesne, Early History of the Church (Eng. trans.), vol. ii t p. 152. 



I. Legend of Claiidian Descent 

The parentage of Constantine and the beginning of his 
rule in Gaul and Britain are the subject of such abundant 
evidence that there can be little question as to the main 
historical facts. 1 He was born at Naissus in Dacia, about 
274 A. D. (Seeck puts the date as late as 288 A. D. 2 ), the 
son of Constantius (later Caesar in Gaul and Britain) 
and of his concubine, or morganatic wife, Helena, prob- 
ably a chambermaid before her connection with Con- 
stantius. He spent part, at least, of his early manhood 
in the East at the court of Diocletian Hence he was 
summoned by his father, and joined him at Bononia 
(Boulogne) in time to accompany him on his last ex- 
pedition into northern Britain. Constantius apparently 
designated him as his successor, and at the death of the 
father, the soldiers acclaimed the son Emperor (306) 
Constantine contented himself for a time with the title of 
" Caesar ", which was recognized and confirmed by Galer- 
ius. His administration of Gaul and Britain was entirely 
successful, and in 308 he secured recognition as an Em- 
peror. By his victory over Maxentius in 312 he became 
sole Emperor in the West 

The first legendary variation from these plain historical 
facts was the assertion that Constantine was descended 

1 Cf. article " Constantin " in Pauly-Wissowa, Real Entyclopadte der 
classischen A Itertumswissenschaft. 
* Untergang d. antiken Welt, vol. i, pp. 47, 435. 

112 [112 


from the Emperor Claudius, one of the unimportant con- 
testants of the throne who reigned in Gaul (268-270). 
This assertion was first made by the rhetorician Eumenius 
m a panegyric delivered in 310 m Constantme j s presence 
The orator says that most men were ignorant of the fact, 
but that the emperor's intimate friends knew it. He extols 
Claudius as the first to restore the lost and ruined disci- 
pline of the Roman government, praise uncalled-for by 
any of the known facts of that ruler's career. Such is the 
greatness of Constantine's two-fold imperial ancestry, his 
eulogist maintains, that possession of imperial rank adds 
nothing to his honor He reiterates this thought: Con- 
stantine wa's not made ruler by any accidental, human pur- 
pose, nor by any favorable circumstances, he deserved the 
empire by his birth. The imperial palace was his birth- 
rrght. 1 This high-sounding rhetoric bears every evidence 
of being inspired, not by the facts of the case, but by the 
suggestion of the ruler in whose praise, and at whose in- 

1 Eumenius, Panegyricus, in Pan. Vet. no. vii, (310 A. D.) Migne ; P. L. 
vin, col. 624 et seq., chap, li, et seq. A primo igitur incipiam originis 
tuae numine quod plenque adhuc fortasse nesciunt, sed qui te amant 
plunmum scmnt. Ab illo enim Divo Claudio manet in te avita cognatio, 
qui Romani imperil solutam et perditam disciplmam primus reformavit 
. . Quamvis igitur ille fecissimus dies proxima religione celebratus 
imperil tui natahs habeatur, quoniam te ipso habitu primus ornavit 
jam tamen ab illo generis auctore in te imperil fortuna descendit 
Qum imo patrem tuum ipsum vetus ilia imperatonae domus praeroga- 
tiva provexit; ut jam summo gradu, et supra humanarum rerum fata 
consisteres, post duos famihae tuae principes tertius imperator. Inter 
omnes, mquam, parti cipes majestatis tuae hoc habes, Constantme, 
praecipium, quod imperator es, tantaque est nobilitas originis tuae, 
ut mhil tibi addident honoris imperium, nee possit fortuna nummi tuo 
imputare quod tuum est, omissis ambitu et suffragatione. 

Chap. iii. " Non , f ortuita hominum consensio non repentinus ali- 
quis favoris eventus te prmcipem fecit. Imperium nascendo meruisti." 

Chap. iv. " Sacrum istud palatium non candidates imperil ; sed 
designates mtrasti, confestimque te ilh paterni lares successorem 
videre legitimum. Neque emm erat dubium, quin ei comperet haer- 
editas quern pnmum imperatori fihum fata tribuissent." 


stance it was uttered. The story of Constantino's Claudian 
descent was evidently a surprise to the public, it could only 
be launched as something known all the time to favored 
friends The impl ; cation must necessarily have been that 
his father, Constantius, was an illegitimate son of Claud- 
ius, as there is no recognized genealogical connection. 

It is significant that the panegyric in which the pronun- 
camento was made was delivered shortly after the execu- 
tion or enforced suicide of Constantino's father-in-law, 
Maximian, the only emperor of the original Diocletian sys- 
tem from whom he could satisfactorily derive his author- 
ity. It is taken by Dessau, Seeck and others as being the 
proclamation under Constantino's direction, of a new prin- 
ciple of legitimacy, based on a fictitious genealogy 1 The 
substitution of hereditary right to the throne for the Dio- 
cletian system of appointment and promotion was tempor- 
arily carried through successfully by Constantino's military 
genius, by the continued succession of his own family to the 
throne, and by the adulation of his admirers Eusebms 
went the length of writing that Constantius " bequeathed 
the empire, according to the law of nature to his eldest 
son," and that Constantine, by bestowing his sister, Con- 
stantia, upon Licinius in marriage, granted him the privi- 
lege of family relationship and a share in his own ancient 
imperial descent. 2 The Emperor Julian, Constantino's 
nephew, accepted the Claudian descent of the family. 3 
Eutropius represented Constantine as the grandson of 
Claudius * Several writers described him as the nephew 5 

1 Cf. Dessau, in Hermes, xxiv, p. 341 et seq ; Seeck, Untergang d. 
antiken Welt, i, pp iio-in, 451, 487-488 (with citations of sources) ; 
Pauly-Wissowa, article " Constantin ". 

2 Life of Constantine, i, 21 ; i, 50, cf. Church History, x, 8, 4. 
8 Orat. f i, p. 6 D; ii, p. 51 C, Caesars, p. 313 D (ed Hertlein). 
4 ix, 22. *Anon. Vales, i, i. 


or grandnephew 1 of Claudius. But in one form or another 
the relationship was established, and became embodied in 
the general belief. 

The idea of hereditary succession to imperial power was, 
of course, not original, nor in any sense unique, with Con- 
stantine It was, however, important in this connection as 
the repudiation of the Diocletian system. Under that sys- 
tem the imperial power was divided between emperors 
with whom were associated Caesars, chosen for their merits 
with a view to the transfer of the higher office to them 
through the voluntary abdication of the older men. The 
great scheme of Diocletian was doomed to speedy rum 
through personal ambition or necessity, and through family 
pride Imperial power continued to be the prize in whose 
pursuit the declining military resources of the empire were 
squandered Hefeditary succession to the throne, however, 
was Constantine's theoretical substitute for the Diocletian 
system, and it seems to have held a larger place in the fol- 
lowing generation than it had in the century before Dio- 
cletian. For this, Constantine's personal success, and the 
disposition of the empire at his death were chiefly respon- 
sible But the invention of a fictitious ancestry, and the 
legend m which it was incorporated must also be given due 
place as one of the landmarks in the development of the 
idea of an hereditary kingship. While the significance of 
the whole episode is largely Roman and local, it neverthe- 
less affords an interesting instance of the way in which 
some of the very foundations of society have been but- 
tressed not so much by fact as by legend. 2 

I Hist. Aug., Claudius, 13, 2. 

2 Seeck maintains that Constantine consistently tried, even to his own 
detriment, to uphold the Diocletian system (Untetgang d. antiken Welt, 
i, pp. 70-71, 112, 176, 186 et passim). This is one of the most curious 
of the conclusions to which he is led by fixing on a motive which he 


2 Legends of. Helena and the True Cross 

If legends about Constantme's paternal ancestry were 
artfully circulated with political motives, legends about 
his mother, Helena, were the spontaneous product of pious 
imagination. Her pronounced Christian piety not only led 
her to devote much of her energy and wealth to the church 
and to make a famous pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 1 but 
made her the heroine of many later traditions Her pil- 
grimage especially, made her the heroine of many versions 
of the story of the finding of the true cross, one of the most 
famous of all Christian legends 2 

The oldest document describing the finding of the cross 
on which Christ was crucified is generally thought to be 
that embodied, from an independent narrative, in the Doc- 
trine of Addai, which book relates the conversion of Abgar, 
king of Edessa, by Addai or Thaddeus 3 

Here Protomce, wife of Emperor Claudius, is converted 
by Simon (Peter) at Rome, and makes a pilgrimage to 
Jerusalem with her two sons and her daughter She is re- 
ceived with honor by the Apostle James, and compels the 
Jews to turn over to him Golgotha, which they had jeal- 
ously guarded. She herself entered the grave there, where 

conceives to be dominant and following it to the ends of the earth. 
At every turn Constantine upset the Diocletian system, and instead of 
fitting the dynastic idea into it only by necessity, the latter was ad- 
vanced from the very first If he bore long with Licmius it may well 
have been that he had to do so, or deemed it advisable on other 
grounds than devotion to the Diocletian system. If it is agreed that 
there was no good material available for another joint emperor, it can 
hardly be proved that his sons were any better. 

1 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, iii, 42-43. 

2 Cf. Acfa Sanctorum, under May 4, I, 445 

3 Edited with Synac text, Eng trans, and notes by G. Phillips (1876), 
pp. 10-16 Cf. also Duchesne- Liber Pontificahs, i, p cvni et seq ; 
O. Bardenhewer, Patrologie (Freiburg-i- B), Eng. trans, Patrology, 
(St Louis, 1908), p. no. 


the cross of Christ was distinguished from the crosses of 
the two thieves by the providential, instantaneous death of 
her daughter, and her resurrection when the true cross was 
placed upon her Protonice gave the cross to James. She 
then built a great and splendid building " over Golgotha on 
which he was crucified, and over the grave in which he 
was placed, so that these places might be honored." When 
she and her children returned to Rome, " Claudius com- 
manded that all the Jews should go forth from the country 
of Italy ".* This legend of the finding of the true cross 
represents the eastern version. In the west it was overshad- 
owed by a very different account. 

Several different varieties of the western version of the 
story of the finding of the cross have come down to us 
These ascribe the leading part in the recovery of the cross 
to Helena, the mother of Constantine This group, whether 
derived from the legend given above, the Eastern one, or 
itself the original version of it, is in fact the dominant one 
in the Middle Ages. 2 

1 Synac scholars and church historians concur in dating the forged 
correspondence of Abgar and Christ in the late second or early third 
century. Eusebius refers to it as among accounts of ancient times 
(Church History I, 13) and the Abgar legend must have been widely 
accepted in his time This, however, does not prove an early date 
for all the stories imbedded m the Doctrine of Addai. Though the 
tendency to-day is to maintain the priority of many Syrian accounts 
as against Latin and Greek stories about the same things, it seems to 
me that in some instances this is erroneous. I do not feel at all 
certain that the story of Protonice and the true cross may not be a 
later, modified version of that of Helena and the true cross. This 
doubt is strengthened by the fact that a church was almost certainly 
built over the supposed sepulchre of Christ in the time of Constantine, 
and there is no special reason for thinking one had been built there 
before that. 

2 For versions of this lengend, cf. A. Holder, Inventio sanctae crucis, 
Leipsic, 1889, Mombntms, Sanctuarium svue Vitae sanctorum (Paris, 
1910 ed ), p 376 et seq , Ada Sanctorum, under May i, ed. Papebroch. 


In one account, probably the older variety, Helena has 
no particular difficulty in finding the three crosses, and the 
right one is ascertained by a miracle of healing in a test sug- 
gested m most versions by Macanus, Bishop of Jerusalem : 

In another form, after many difficulties, the crosses are 
brought to 1'ght by Judas Cyriac under orders and direc- 
tion of Helena. Both forms exist in Syriac, Greek and 
Latin. The original Helena legend, as well as that of Pro- 
tonice, is generally believed to have been of Syrian origin. 
The former, if we can judge from its literary associations, 
is closely connected with the legends of Sylvester both in 
its origin and in its later development. It is found in many 
manuscripts with the Vita Sylvestri* 

In one form or another the legend of the finding of the 
true cross by Helena became widely current throughout 
Christendom. Generally it displaced accounts in which the 
honor was assigned to other persons. Occasionally two 
accounts (e. g., the Protonice legend and that of Helena) 
were combined, and harmonized by having the cross lost 
after its first recovery 3 Authoritative writers in the West 

1 Cf. Sozomen, n, i , Socrates, i, 17, who tells of the recovery also 
of the inscription placed by command of Pilate over the head of 
Christ; Theodoret i, 18. 

2 Cf in ft a, pp. 159, 164. Cf. E Nestle in Bysantinische Zeitschnft, 
iv, pp 319-345. For the whole subject of Helena and the cross, see 
references in Bury's ed. of Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Em- 
pire, ii, p. 568, Duchesne, op. cit., i, p cvii et seq ; Richardson, in 
op. cit, pp. 444-445J Smith and Wace, Diet of Christian Biography, 
art. "Helena". An old, monumental work is that of Gretser, De ctuce 
Chnsti, 1600, vol ii, in Opera, Ratisbone (Regensburg), 1734, which, 
however, is entirely uncritical. More recently Nestle, De sancta cruce, 
1889 ; J. Straubmger, Die Kreusauflindungslegende, Untersuchungen 
uber ihre altchnsthchen Fassungen wit besonderer Berucksichtigung- 
der syrischen Texte. (Forschungen sur christhchen Litteratur und 
Dogmengeschichte, vol xiu, part in), Paderborn, 1913. 

3 Duchesne cites a Synac version, MS. British Museum 12174. 


and East from the end of the fourth century assume at least 
the recovery of the true cross to be a fact. 1 

In all the medieval texts which give in full the legend 
ascribing the discovery of the cross to Helena, statement is 
made that Constantme was instructed in Christianity by 
Eusebius, Bishop of Rome, and most of them add that he 
was also baptized by the same bishop. This statement, 
however, is not present in the earlier references to the find- 
ing of the true cross 2 The legend of the finding of the 
cross is briefly incorporated m the Liber Pontificahs under 
the life of Pope Eusebius, though the implication that the 
imperial family was Christian at that time contradicts the 
statements given later that Constantine was baptized by 
Sylvester, the second bishop of Rome after Eusebius 3 

Of the disposition made of the cross in the various 
legends it is enough to say that it was generally either left 
in Jerusalem, or taken to Rome, or divided. Part was even- 
tually supposed to have been taken to Constantinople. One 
of the earliest episodes mentioned in connection with the 
cross was the statement that Constantine had the nails of 
the cross put in his diadem or helmet and in the bridle of his 
horse 4 This latter was cited as fulfilling the prophecy of 
Zachariah xiv 20: " On the bridles, Holiness to the Lord." 

The most decisive argument against the whole story of 
Helena and the cross is the absence of any reference to it 

1 Ambrose, Sermo in obit. Theodosn c 46 (Migne. P. L. vol. xvi, col. 
1399) ; Rufmus, Church History i, 7, 8, Paulmus ep. 31, Cassiodorus, 
Histona tripartite ch. ix, Socrates i, 17, Sozomenii, i; Theodoret i, 18. 

2 Cf infra, pp 152-153 for Ambrose and Rufmus 

* Ed. Duchesne, i, 167, no. xxxii. " Eusebius natione Graecus, ex 
medico, redit arm. vl m i. d. 111. Fuit autem temponbus Constant!. 
Sub hujus temporibus inventa est crux dommi nostri Jesu Christ! v 
non mai, et baptizatus est Judas qui et Cyriacus." 

8 Ambrose op. at , 47, Theodoret and Sozomen, loc. cit. Seeck gives 
the incident as genuine. 


in Eusebius, who lived in Palestine and who describes her 
pilgrimage and her building of churches there at consid- 
erable length. Newman's argument to the contrary in his 
Essays on Miracles is only an illustration of Gibbon's say- 
ing that u The silence of Eusebius and the Bordeaux pil- 
grim, which satisfies those who think, perplexes those who 
believe " * 

There are early references to the finding of the cross, 
e. g., by Cyril of Jerusalem within twenty-five years after 
Helena's pilgrimage. But this, at most, shows that the 
empress mother may have taken back with her from Jeru- 
salem what purported to be relics of the true cross This 
much of an historical basis for the legend can not, of course, 
be disproved 

3 Later Legends of Constantino's Birth and Rise to Im- 
perial Position 

Long after the time of Constantine, romances they can 
hardly be called legends sprang up about his mother, 
Helena, his father, Constantius, and about his own birth 
The best known of these is that told by Geoffrey of Mon- 
mouth 2 and Pierre Langloft 3 and mentioned by Henry of 
Huntmgton, 4 Richard of Cirencester, Voragine, and others 
This is to the effect that Constantius was sent to Britain by 
the Senate, and was made king there, and married Helena, 
daughter of Duke Coel, and that Constantine was thus the 
son of a British princess c 

1 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. Bury, vol. li, p. 456 n. 
The " Bordeaux pilgrim " is the anonymous itinerary of a pilgrimage 
to the Holy Land in 333. Cf. Migne, P. L. vol. viii, col. 783 et seq. 

3 v, 6. s i } pp. 66-67. 4 i, 37. 

5 For a short sketch of this and other stones, and for other refer- 
ences, see Richardson's "Prolegomena" in Nicene and Post Nicene 
Fathers, Second Series, vol. i, Eusebius, p. 441 A story in Hakluyt's 
Voyages, 2 (1810), p. 34, attributes angelic virtues and superhuman 


A still wilder romance is that edited by Heydenreich in 
1879 from a fourteenth-century manuscript. It makes 
Helena a noble pilgrim to Rome who was violated by the 
emperor Constantius. The son she bore was named Con- 
stantme and after remarkable adventures was recognized 
by Constantius and made heir to the empire. 1 This legend 
had been traced back to a seventh or eighth century story, 
which was apparently widespread in two general types, 
Greek and Latin. The Greek story seems to be the earlier 
and simpler. It is to the effect that Constantius, on his re- 
turn from a victory over the Sarmatians, had intercourse 
at an inn with a heathen maid, Helena, with whom he left 
imperial insignia. Later, seeking a worthy heir to the 
throne, in place of his legitimate but feeble-minded son, 
he sent out an official who stopped at the same inn Hel- 
ena's son attracted his attention, and also his displeasure, by 
mounting one of the royal horses, but when Helena told 
that her son was the offspring of the emperor and displayed 
the purple robe, the boy was taken to Rome. Here he was 
trained in the command of troops and, as Constantine, be- 
came the emperor's heir. The Latin form varied in many 
places from this story and added many embellishments, such 
as Helena's pilgrimage to Rome as a Christian and her vio- 
lation on the journey by the emperor, his rearing of her 
son at Rome and the son's distinguished bearing in a tour- 
ney, and his recognition thereafter as the emperor's heir. 
A romantic episode of a plot by certain merchants at Rome 
also crept into the story. Constantine is represented as hav- 
ing been abducted by these merchants and palmed off upon 

knowledge to this British princess Helena, and tells of her pilgrim- 
age to Jerusalem, her death at Rome, and the preservation of her 
body in Venice. 

1 Heydenreich (ed), Incerti Auctoris de Constantino Magno ejusque 
Matre Helena, Leipsic, 1879 


the Greek emperor as a prince, so that he married his daugh- 
ter to the young man, and sent the couple back to the West, 
in charge of the merchants, with rich presents. The mer- 
chants deserted the couple and made off with the booty. 
Constantme and his bride were rescued, and eventually 
came to their own. 1 

But these stones and others equally fanciful take us be- 
3'ond the borderline of legends into the realm of pure 
romance. In many of them the use of Constantine's name, 
rather than that of any other notable, seems merely acci- 
dental ; It is only the device of the story-teller to add inter- 
est to his tale. 

1 For a detailed study of these legends, cf. E. Heydenreich, " Con- 
stantm der Grosse in den Sagen des Mittelalters," Deutsch. Zeitsch. /. 
Geschichtswissensckaft ix (1893), pp. 1-27. 


i. Its M eagerness 

THE hostile, pagan legend of Constantine is compara- 
tively slight, surprisingly so in view of the significance of 
his re'gn for paganism. One finds less than one would ex- 
pect of the virulence and bitterness and wild imagination 
that characterized, for instance, the popular Catholic stories 
of Luther, or the southern version of Lincoln during the 
Civil War. This is in part explained by the destruction of 
pagan society and literature which the two centuries after 
Constantine brought about. Possibly pagan legends afloat 
at the time disappeared so completely that we can find no 
trace of them. Yet a number of pagan writings remain. 
Eutropius, the Scriptores Historiae Augustae, Sextus Au- 
relms Victor, Praxagoras Atheniensis, Julian, Libanius, 
Ammianus Marcellmus, Eunapius, are represented to-day 
by fragments considerable enough to insure some reference 
to most of the pagan stories about the first Christian em- 
peror. Furthermore, the Christian writers themselves so 
often quote adversaries whom they refute that we can count 
upon them giving a clue to most legends invented or be- 
lieved in by the opponents of their faith. Yet it is after 
all a meagre yield that a search of this literature reveals. 
The explanation must, therefore, in part be sought in the 
fact ment ; oned above that contemporary paganism scarcely 
realized that Constantme's reign marked the beginning of 
the end of the older religions. 1 

1 Cf. supra, pp. 66-67. 
123] 123 


2. Emperor Julian's Version of Constantine 
The emperor Julian, the failure of whose effort to restore 
paganism and to discredit Christianity showed how far the 
revolution had gone and how permanent it promised to be, 
gives us our first glimpse of a pagan legend hostile to the 
great Constantine, his own uncle. In his formal writings 
and orations, which he was fond of composing, Julian gen- 
erally observed the utmost of imperial decorum. He gave 
measured and stately praise to his predecessors, even those 
of his own family. In one of his orations, however, that 
on the Cynic Heracleion, 1 the imperial orator made a veiled 
attack upon Constantine. He tells a long and curious fable 
about a man who attained great wealth, partly by inheri- 
tance and partly by acquisitions which he made, " wishing 
to get rich by fair means or foul, for he cared little for the 
gods ". His success was due to a certain knack and to luck, 
rather than to any real ability. At his death there came 
massacre and confusion, a natural .result of his unscrupu- 
lousness and of the example he set his sons. 2 The rich man 
of the parable is none other than Constantine ; the parable 
itself nothing but a bitterly hostile interpretation of his 

In " The Caesars ", however, Julian made an open at- 
tack upon the first Christian emperor This work is an 
attempt at light literature, a satire written for the Satur- 
nalia in the winter following Julian's accession to the throne. 
It purports to describe a Saturnalian Symposium which 
Romulus gives in honor of the gods, and to which the 
Roman emperors and Alexander of Macedon are invited. 
The emperors are discussed as they are introduced at the 

1 " IT/Mff Hpoxtaw Kwwwv," Oratio vii m Hertlein's edition of Julian's 

* Ibid., vol. i, p 295. 


banquet, and as they contend for the prize of merit, and 
again at the end of the book, as they are asked their sev- 
eral ambitions and assigned to their proper divine patrons. 
On each occasion Julian decries Constantine's character and 
deeds. His admission to the contest for the highest place 
among the emperors is challenged by Dionysos on the 
ground of his imperfections and his lack of zeal for the 
gods, and he is finally grudgingly admitted to the contest 
as a man " not lacking valor, but entirely mastered by 
pleasure and dissipation " 1 

In pleading his cause Constantme is embarrassed by con- 
sciousness of the pettiness of his achievements " for, if the 
truth must be told, of the tyrants he overcame, one was un- 
warlike and effeminate, and the other unfortunate and in- 
capacitated by age, and both were hated by gods and men. 
As to the barbarians, his efforts against them were laugh- 
able, for he gave them tribute, and spent everything on 
pleasure." 2 After looking lovingly at the Moon, and after 
a vainglorious speech, Constantine was put to shame by 
Silenus, the clown of the symposium, in a joking compari- 
son of his deeds to hothouse plants that were green for a 
little, but soon withered 8 Later, after an exalted discourse 
by Marcus Aurelius, the hero of the booklet, on his desire 
" to be like the gods ", Hermes asked Constantine, " And 
what do you consider noble ? " " To get great sums," he 
said, " and to spend them upon your own desires, and in 
gratifying those of your friends." * 

At the close of " The Caesars ", as each emperor chooses 
his patron, occurs the following remarkable passage : 

1 Julian, Opera, Ed. Hertlein, i, p 408, I. 6-16. 

2 find., i, p. 422, 1. 7-15. 

3 Ibid., i, p. 422, 1. 15- p. 423* 1- i& 

id., i, p. 430, 1. 4-8. 


But Constantine, not finding among the gods a pattern for his 
life, perceiving Wantonness near, ran to her. And she, re- 
ceiving him tenderly, and embracing him, covered him with 
flo\\ery feminine robes, and led him to Perdition ('Aaurta), 
so that he found Jesus, who turned around and harangued 
them all : " Whoever is a seducer, whoever is defiled with 
blood, whoever is under a curse and abominable, come hither 
boldly, for, washing him in this water, I will make him imme- 
diately pure, and if he falls again into the same faults, I will 
make him pure again when he beats his breast and knocks his 
head." And he very gladly staid with him and led his chil- 
dren from the assembly of the gods. But the demons, aven- 
gers of blood, tormented him, and them no less, administering 
justice for the Wood of kindred; until Zeus, on account of 
Claudius and Constantine, made them desist. 1 

This is, of course, an echo of the old accusation that the 
Christians welcomed the scum of the earth into their fel- 
lowship and encouraged crime by the promise of forgive- 
ness. 2 It may have been adapted, as a parody, from the 
words of Eusebms in his Oration in Praise of Constantine, 3 
" as a gracious Saviour and physician of the soul, calls on 
the Greek and the Barbarian, the wise and the unlearned, 
the rich and the poor, the servant and his master, the sub- 
ject and his lord, the ungodly, the profane, the ignorant, 
the evil-doer, the blasphemer, alike to draw near, and hasten 
to receive his heavenly cure." 

If the passage m question be a genuine part of " The 

1 Julian, Opera Ed. Hertlein, i, 431, 1. 7 et seq. The text of this pas- 
sage is uncertain. Some of the best MSS. omit the reference to Jesus 
and his speech, others read " the son " instead of " Jesus " I have fol- 
lowed the reading adopted by Hertlein in the body of his text. 

1 For a philosophical discussion of this charge and of the potency of 
conversion in working a moral transformation, cf. Ongen, Contra Cel- 
sttm, Book iii, chapters 62-69. 

5 Chapter xi, 5. 


Caesars/' as I think It is, it expresses Julian's scorn of the 
Christian idea of conversion, and especially of the idea of 
the magic efficacy of baptism. Its implied denunciation of 
Constantine, "whoever is a seducer, whoever is defiled with 
blood, whoever is under a curse and abominable/' is one of 
the bitterest attacks that has survived. The punishment of 
Constantine which followed when " the demons, avengers 
of blood, tormented him and them [Constantine's sons] 
no less, administering justice for the blood of kindred " 
serves to emphasize the mockery of the parody. In the 
whole passage the killing of relatives is emphasized (" de- 
filed with blood ", " under a curse ", " avengers of blood ", 
" justice for the blood of kindred ") as the greatest crime 
of Constantine. This bloodguiltiness coupled with the 
Christian promise of ready forgiveness and purification 
through baptism, are the elements which gave rise to the 
pagan legend of Constantine's conversion. Owing to the 
satirical vein in which " The Caesars " is written, it is, per- 
haps, not safe to infer that Julian actually attributed Con- 
stantine's adoption of Christianity to the promise which 
was held out to him of pardon for a profligate career and 
for the murder of kindred. But, that Constantine was a 
reprobate and that his adoption of Christianity was at once 
a sign and a completion of his moral turpitude, is plainly 
the burden of Julian's story. This, whether original with 
Julian or current before he wrote, is a palpable distortion 
of Constantine's career. The execution of his son, Crispus, 
his wife, Fausta, and other near relatives, is proven, but 
there is no historical evidence that he sought in Christianity 
release from remorse for these executions within his family 
circle. Indeed, such a view is rendered impossible, not only 
by Constantine's postponement of baptism and his general 
attitude toward the church, but by the fact that he was 
committed to the new religion before these executions, and 
by many other considerations. 


3. Development of the Pagan Legend of Constantine 

Certain it is, however, that the legend soon became cur- 
rent among pagan writers that Constantine became a 
Christian because that religion alone received him after the 
execution of his son and wife, and promised him forgive- 
ness for the great crimes he had committed. Count Zosi- 
mus, one of the best-known pagan writers of the fifth cen- 
tury, incorporated the story in his Historia Nova. He is a 
partisan and not a first-rate authority as to the history of 
the fourth century ; his work is largely a mediocre compila- 
tion from Eunapius and Olympiodorus. These very con- 
siderations, however, make his narrative invaluable as a 
source for the current pagan version of Constantine' s rela- 
tion to Christianity. He asserted that Constantine was a 
pagan until late in his reign Then, after he had executed 
his son Crispus, an able and excellent young man, and his 
wife Fausta, he was stricken with remorse and asked the 
philosopher Sopater how he might obtain expiation. So- 
pater replied that for such crimes no expiation was possible 
An Egyptian priest, however, coming from Spain (prob- 
ably to be identified with Hosms) held forth the promise of 
forgiveness through repentance and baptism, and gained an 
ascendancy over the emperor which could be accounted for 
only by magic. Constantine turned therefore to Christian- 
ity for relief and became an adherent of that religion. 1 

1 Zosimus, Historia Nova, ii, 29, 3. Stated also, and refuted in Sozo- 
men, i, 5. 'Seeck ( Untergang d. antiken Welt, iii, 213, 477) assumes a 
common source from which the Epitome of Victor, the account of Zosi- 
mus, and that of John the Monk in the Vita S Artemii (A A SS , 
8th October) draw, which stated that Fausta charged Crispus with 
offering her violence. Crispus was therefore executed; then Helena 
persuaded Constantine that Fausta was the guilty one, and induced 
him to kill her by an overheated bath. Then Constantine repented, the 
heathen priests declared that his deeds could not be expiated, Chris- 
tianity offered forgiveness, so he became a Christian. 


This account, growing, possibly, out of Julian's satire 
and developed by an unknown writer whose work was used 
by Zosimus and others, received doubtless various embel- 
lishments. We find a much later writer, Codinus (about 
1450), who in part used earlier sources now lost, touching 
up the story of Crispus' death with the statement that Con- 
stantine afterwards erected a statue of Crispus in pure 
silver with the inscription " My unjustly treated son ", and 
did further penance. 1 

This pagan legend had a comparatively small sphere of 
action for it was quickly denied by Christian writers z and 
received little credence in later Christian centuries. Sozo- 
men's refutation of Zosimus is probably the best one. It is 
to the effect that Crispus " did not die till the twentieth 
year of his father's reign, and many laws framed with his 
sanction are still extant" as "can be proved by referring to 
the dates affixed." That Sopater, or Sosipater as he calls 
him, " could hardly have dwelt in Gaul, in Britain, or in the 
neighboring countries, in which, it is universally admitted, 
Constantine embraced the religion of the Christians, pre- 
vious to his war with Maxentius, and prior to his return 
to Rome and Italy; and this is evidenced by the dates of the 
laws which he enacted in favor of religion." And further- 
more a pagan philosopher would not be ignorant that Her- 
cules was purified at Athens by the celebration of the mys- 
teries of Ceres, after the murder of his children and of his 
guest, and that the Greeks [i. e , pagans] held that purifica- 
tion from guilt of this nature could be obtained. 

Evagnus' refutation of Sozimus is far inferior to that 
of Sozomen. He first refutes in a most quixotic fashion 

i-De signo, ed Bekker, Bonn, 1843, pp. 62-63. 

2 E. g., iSozomen, i, 5 ; -Evagrius, iii, 40-41 ; Cyril, adv. Julian, book vii. 
* Book iii, chaps. 40, 41. 


Sozimus' declaration that Constantme imposed a new tax, 
chrysargyrium, upon merchants and others including pub- 
lic harlots, by citing instances of Constantme's liberality in 
the building of Constantinople and toward the army, adding 
" How thou canst then maintain that the same person could 
be so liberal, so munificent, and at the same time so- paltry 
and sordid, as to impose so accursed a tax, I am utterly un- 
able to comprehend." That is, Constantine spent so much 
money it is impossible to think of him levying such a tax! 
He proceeds to prove that Constantine did not execute 
either Fausta or Crispus by adducing tributes to Constan- 
tine's mildness by Eusebms, his Christian panegyrist, and 
by the passage in Eusebius' Church History * in which Cris- 
pus is commended, and these he clinches as follows : " Euse- 
bius, who survived Constantine, would never have praised 
Crispus in these terms, if he had been destroyed by his 
father." To modern writers, this passage is merely one of 
the proofs that the Church History was written before the 
execution of Crispus in 326 and was not revised at this 
point. The contention that Crispus was not executed at 
all, is one of the instances in which the defense of Constan- 
tine overshot the mark. 

It was the eventual supremacy of Christianity and the 
disappearance of paganism as a distinct power, perhaps 
more than the arguments of Christian historians, that sup- 
pressed this pagan legend of Constantine' s conversion. 



I. Pagan and Christian Legends of Divine Aid 

WHILE Constantine was yet a pagan, in Gaul, pagan ora- 
tors extolled the peculiar solicitude of the gods for him. 
Reference has already been made to Eumemus' description, 
in his panegyric of 310, of the close tie between Constantine 
and Apollo. 1 Pagan orators also attributed divine aid to 
Constantine in his earlier Gallic wars, and in his Italian 
campaign against Maxentius. 2 

The panegyric of 313, to quote one of a dozen similar 
passages, describes Constantine as having access in the f or- 

1 C'/. supra, p. 75 et seq. 

3 Seeck, op. cit , i, 491, Richardson, in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers 
(second series, vol. i), Eusebtus, p. 490, and others assert that these 
pagan panegyrists, and the phrase "instinctu divimtatis" on the tri- 
umphal arch refer vaguely to the vision of the monogram. They over- 
look the fact that Eumemus described a peculiar intimacy between 
Constantine and heavenly powers in the panegyric of 310, before the 
campaign against Maxentius (cf. supra, p. 75). 

Nazarius, the pagan panegyrist, also predicates divine protection for 
Constantine on several different occasions and uses the phrase " divino 
instinctu" with reference to an entirely different situation from that 
described by Lactantius. Nazarius, Paneg. (in Paneg. Vet., No. X) 
chaps. 14-17, 19, 26; and Incerti Paneg., probably by Nazarius, in 
313 (in Paneg. Vet., No ix) chaps. 2 et seq., in Migne, P. L., viii, 
cols. 592-595 and cols. 655 et seq.. respectively. Cf., also, infra, p. 132, 
n. 2, end. 

131] 131 


mation of his plans to the supreme divine wisdom while 
other mortals are left to the care of the lesser gods * The 
story of heavenly warriors seen marching in behalf of 
Constantme before a decisive engagement is told first in a 
pagan source, the panegyric of Nazarms at Rome in 321, 
He tells how all Gaul talked of the vision of celestial armies, 
led, in the opinion of the orator, by Constantius, flying to> 
the a:d of Constantine at the beginning of the war with 
Maxentms. 2 He believes that this celestial army has al- 
\va}*s been fighting for Constantine but is now for the first 
time revealed to other men. His deduction is not that Con- 
stantine received a revelation of the Christian god, but that 
after witnessing this heavenly apparition men have no rea- 

1 Quisnam te Deus, quae tarn praesens hortata est majestas, ut om- 
nibus fere tuis comitibus et ducibus non solum tacite mussantibus sed 
etiam aperte timentibus, contra consiha hominum contra haruspicum 
monita ipse per temet hberandae urbis tempus vemsse sentires ? Habes 
profecto ahquod cum ilia mente divma, Constantine, secretum, quae 
delegata nostri diis mmoribus cura, um se tibi dignatur ostendere. 
Incerti Paneg , in Paneg. Vet., no. ix, chap. 2, in Migne, P. L., vni, col. 

2 In ore denique est omnium Galliarum, exercitus visos qui se c*ivi- 
nitus missos prae se ferebant. Et quamvis coelestia sub oculos homi- 
num venire non soleant, quod crassam et caligantem aciem simplex et 
inconcreta substantia naturae tenuis eludat; ilh tamen auxihatores tui 
aspici audinque patientes, ubi meritum tuum testificati sunt, mortahs 
visus contagmm refugerunt. Sed quaenam ilia fuisse dicitur species ? 
qui -vigor corporum? quae amplitude membrorum? quae alacritas vol- 
untatum' Flagrabant verendum nescio quid umbone corusa, et coeles- 
tium armorum lux terribilis ardebat; tales emm venerant, ut tui cre- 
derentur Haec ipsorum sermocmatio, hoc inter audientes ferebant, 
Constantmum petimus, Constantino imus auxiho. Habent profecto et 
divma jactantiam, et coelestia quoque tangit ambitio. Illi coelo lapsi, 
ilh divmitus missi glonabantur quod tibi mihtabant. Ducebat hos, 
credo, Constantius pater, qui terrarum triumphis altion tibi cesserat, di- 
vinas expeditiones jam divus agitabat Magnus hie quoque pietatis 
tuae fructus, quod quamvis particeps coeh ampliorem se fieri gratia 
tua senserit, et cujus munera in ahos influere jam possent, in eum 
ipsum tua munera redundarint Nazarms, Paneg., chap. 14, in Migne, 
P. L, viii, cols. 592-593. Cf. ibid., chap 16, "Quis est hominum quin 
opitulari tibi deum credat?" This in reference to Constantme's early 


son now to doubt the story that Castor and Pollux took 
visible part in battles of old/ 

A somewhat similar occurrence is described as taking 
place in the decisive campaign against Licinms. But this 
time the narration comes from a Christian writer, none 
other than Eusebius, the " father of Church History ", and 
dates from a time shortly after Constantine's death, long 
after the favorite of the gods had cast in h:s fortunes with 
the Christians. Eusebius tells how detachments of Con- 
stantine's army were seen marching through cities at noon- 
day, though in reality not a single soldier was present at the 
time. He adds, *' This appearance was seen through the 
agency of divine and superior power/' 2 Eusebius' account 
was written at least fifteen years later than Nazarius'; if 
there is any direct connection between the two the idea of 
miraculous manifestations in behalf of Constantine must 
have been suggested to the Christian by the pagan. No 
connection, however, can be proved, and it is more probable 
that each merely gave utterance to popular tales current in 
his own environment. 

The historical fact seems to be that direct intervention of 
God or gods, angels or demons, figured in most stories of 
great events, whether narrated by Christians or pagans. 
Constantine's pagan eulogists in Gaul, or from Gaul, 
extolled the activities of the gods in his behalf at least 
as late as the year three hundred and twenty-one. As 
Constantine's victories turned to the benefit of the Chris- 
tians, they, in turn, assumed a direct interposition of 
their God in his affairs. As we have seen, Constan- 
tine used Christian emblems as his luck tokens as 
early as the year three hundred and twelve, but he took 
no action that precipitated an open, violent break with 

1 Op. cit., chaps. 19 and 15 respectively. 

2 Life of Constantme, ii, 6. For another instance of divine aid cited 
by Eusebius, cf. ibid., i, 47. 


paganism. The future was with the Christians. Though 
Nazanus could give the pagan interpretation of Constan- 
ime's marvelous victories as late as 321, the emperor him- 
self became more and more definitely Christian in his ideas 
and in his policy. It was the Christian god who fought for 
him and gave him the victory. 

This fact, if we may believe Eusebius, found recognition 
in Constantine's preparations for battle, as well as in the 
superstitious reverence paid to the Christian labarum. In 
the old days the Roman armies had their praetorian altars, 
their questioning of the omens before important actions, 
and their rituals for gaining the favor of the gods Con- 
stantine's new faith sought precisely the same objects as 
did the old pagan worship, but it was directed toward an- 
other deity and found somewhat different expression. He 
is said, in preparation for battle, to have pitched a taber- 
nacle of the cross outside the camp and to have retired to 
it to pray. " And making earnest supplications to God, he 
was always honored after a little with a manifestation of 
His presence. And then, as if moved by a divine impulse, 
he would rush from the tabernacle, and suddenly give 
orders to his army to move at once, without delay, and on 
the instant to draw their swords." * This last corresponds 
with what we know of his military tactics; a sudden, irre- 
sistible assault won most of his battles. The tabernacle 
outside the camp, and the mysterious consulting of the 
deity suggest forms of divining common among primitive 
and even more advanced peoples ; it may well be regarded 
in this case as a Christian substitute for the pagan practice 
of consulting the omens Some suggestion of details came 
perhaps from the narratives in the Old Testament about 
Moses and the tabernacle 2 The comparison of Constan- 

1 Ettsebms > Life of C onstantine f ii, 12-14. For the labaium, cf supra, 
pp. '106-107. 
3 Cf. especially, Ex. xxxiii, 7 et seq. 

1 35] EARLY LEGENDS 135 

tine to Moses was, at least, common among Christian 
writers ; Eusebius repeatedly likened him to a new Moses, 
m the events of his life and in his divine mission. 1 With 
no other Jewish or Christian worthy was he so frequently 

Sozomen embellished Eusebius' account with details about 
the tabernacle, and adds the significant statement, " From 
that period the Roman legions, which now were called by 
their number, provided each its own tent, with attendant 
priests and deacons." 2 The Roman army was now defi- 
nitely under the auspices of the God of the Christians. 
Legends of the miraculous aid of pagan gods had given 
place altogether to legends of the aid which the true God 
had vouchsafed to Constantme. It is little wonder that in 
the fifth century many a pagan writer found that the facts 
of his own time gave little ground for belief in any divinq 
aid whatever being granted to the Roman legions and at- 
tributed the decline of the Empire to its desertion of its old 

2. Early Legends of Constantino's Miraculous Conversion 

It was inevitable that Constantine's support of Christian- 
ity would be attributed sooner or later to a miraculous con- 
version. This is shown by the different legends upon the 
subject which sprang up at various times from independent 
origins The earliest, and the most famous, comes direct 
from Eusebius and perhaps ultimately from Constantine 
himself. We have seen that the former's eulogistic Life of 
the latter is full of references to continued supernatural 
revelations of God vouchsafed to the emperor. Most of 
these references are known only to those who have read 

1 Cf. Church History, ix, 9, 5; 8; Life of Constantine, i, 12. 
3 Ecclesiastical History f i, 8. 


the Life, but the story of the first of these revelations is 
familiar to all. Eusebius not only gave a circumstantial ac- 
count of the manifestation, but in this connection ascribes 
the emperor's conversion to it. The campaign, therefore, 
which furnished pagan panegyrists with their last opportu- 
nity to picture the intervention of their gods on Constan- 
tine's behalf, became to a large part of the Christian world 
not only its first opportunity to portray its God as the ar- 
biter of victory, but the setting of a magnificent picture of 
the miraculous conversion of the great emperor to its 

The importance of this legend justifies its description in 
the words of its earliest narrator. Eusebius tells hqw Con- 
stantine was moved at the thought of the tyrannous oppres- 
sion of Rome by Maxentms to attempt the overthrow of 
the tyrant Knowing the insufficiency of his own military 
forces "on account of the wicked and magical enchant- 
ments which were so diligently practiced by the tyrant, he 
sought divine assistance." Pondering over the contrast be>- 
tween the prosperous career of his own father, who had 
" honored the one Supreme God during his whole life/' and 
the unhappy end of those who had put their trust in other 
gods, he " felt it incumbent on him to honor his father's 
God alone " 

Accordingly he called on him with earnest prayer and sup- 
plications that he would reveal to him who he was, and stretch 
forth his right hand to help him in his present difficulties. 
And while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most 
marvelous sign appeared to him from heaven, the account of 
which it might have been hard to believe had it been related 
by any other person. But since the victorious emperor himself 
long afterwards declared it to the writer of this history, when 
he was honored with his acquaintance and society, and con- 
firmed his statement by an oath, who could hesitate to 


accredit the relation, especially since the testimony of after- 
time has established its truth ? He said that about noon, when 
the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with his own 
eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the 
sun, and bearing the inscription, " Conquer by this." At this 
sight he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole 
army also, which followed him on this expedition and wit- 
nessed the miracle. 

He said, moreover, that he doubted within himself what the 
import of this apparition could be. And while he continued to 
ponder and reason on its meaning, night suddenly came on; 
then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the 
same sign which he had seen in the heavens and commanded 
him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the 
heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with 
his enemies. 

At dawn of day he arose, and communicated the marvel to 
his friends : and then, calling together the workers in gold and 
precious stones, he sat in the midst of them and described to 
them the figure of the sign he had seen, bidding them repre- 
sent it in gold and precious stones. And this representation I 
myself have had an opportunity of seeing. . . . But at the 
time above specified, being struck with amazement at the ex- 
traordinary vision and resolving to worship no other God save 
him who had appeared to him, he sent for those who were 
acquainted with the mysteries of His doctrine, and enquired 
who that God was, and what was intended by the sign of the 
vision he had seen. 

They affirmed that He was God, the only-begotten Son of 
the one and only God : that the sign which had appeared was 
the symbol of immortality, and the trophy of that victory ever 
death which he had gained in time past when sojourning on 
earth. . . . 

He determined thenceforth to devote himself to the read- 
ing of the Inspired writings. 

Moreover, he made the priests of God his counselors, and 


deemed it incumbent on him to honor God who had ap- 
peared to him with all devotion. 1 

That the miraculous mid-day vision of the monogram of 
Christ in the heaven is legend and not fact, admits of little 
doubt. 2 Eusebius, himself, in his Church History, written 
much nearer the time of the campaign against Maxentius, 
makes no mention of it, or indeed of any " conversion " of 
Constantine to Christianity. We have considerable con- 
temporary material upon the campaign, and this episode 
finds no place in it Lactantius seems altogether our best 
witness. His account is simple and straightforward. He 
tells that Constantine was directed in a dream to cause the 
heavenly sign to be put on the shields of his soldiers, that 
he did so, and won the battle. 8 There is here no reference 
to a supernatural vision at mid-day, nor to Constantine' s 
being converted to Christianity. 

There is ample evidence of Constantine's use of the 
monogram of Christ, but aside from the passage just quoted 
from Eusebius there is no evidence that this originated from 
a miraculous vision. The repetition of the story by his 
continuators adds no weight to his narrative. Monumental 
references, sculpture and inscriptions, from the time of 
Constantine, have been found in many places setting forth 
his triumph. 4 These give no portrayal of a heavenly vision. 
The wellnigh universal attitude of contemporary Christians 
was that God had given Constantine the victory, and that 

1 Eusebius, Life of Constantine, i, 26-32, Eng. trans, in N. and P. N. 
F. f Eusebius, pp. 488-491. 

2 Cf. supra, p. 77 et seq. 

5 De mortibus persecutorum, 44. 

* For a practically complete list and short descriptions of these, cf. 
E. Becker, "Protest gegen den Kaiserkult und Verherrlichung des 
Sieges am Pons Milvius in der altchristlichen Kunst der konstantin- 
ischen Zeit," in Konstantin der Grosse u. s. Zeit, ed. Dolger. 


his enemies had perished in the Tiber, precisely as God had 
given Moses the victory by the overthrow of Pharaoh's 
host in the Red Sea. All contemporary comparisons of 
Constantine to scriptural heroes liken him to- Moses. Had 
there been any heavenly vision, it is inconceivable that 
there should be no reference to it other than Eusebms', 
and it is inconceivable also that no one should have 
thought of comparing Constantine's vision with that 
of the Apostle Paul. How natural this would have been 
is shown by the fact that Theodoret in his continu- 
ation of Eusebius summarizes in that comparison his pre- 
decessor's account, speaking of Constantine as " a prince 
deserving of the highest praise, who like the divine apostle, 
was not called by man or through man, but by God." x 

Eusebius tells his story under circumstances which make 
its truthfulness highly improbable, even were it not con- 
tradicted by other evidence. He tells it as a piece of news 
at least twenty- four years after the event. He writes about 
a wonder which occurred in the other half of the Roman 
Empire and which left no impression in that part of the 
Empire. He anticipates his reader's incredulity by admit- 
ting his own, and asserting that the emperor told him the 
story " long afterwards " in conversation and confirmed it 
with an oath. He was not himself intimate with the em- 
peror and saw him only on rare occasions; it was there- 
fore improbable that he possessed genuine inside informa- 
tion of the emperor's early career. 2 He has nothing to say 
of the cross in the heavens in his Oration in Praise of Con- 
stantine delivered in the presence of his hero and full of 
allusions to the revelations with which God had favored 
him, but describes it only after the emperor's death. 8 It is 

1 i, 2. For comparison of Constantine to Moses, cf. Eusebius, Church 
History, ix, 9; Life of Constantine, i, 12, 20, 38. 

2 Cf. Life of Constantine, iv, 33, 39. 

8 The allusion in chap. 6, 21, would apply to a dream as well as, or 
better than, to a heavenly apparition. 


possible that Constantine, never averse to- enhancing the 
esteem m which churchmen, and others for that matter, 
held him, in conversation with Ettsebius late in his life may 
have embellished the facts relating to his adoption of the 
heavenly sign and may even have given the bishop hints 
from which his later narration developed. 1 Indeed, Con- 
stantme's own later memories of the campaign may have 
developed by some process of auto-suggestion into some- 
thing like a germ of Eusebius' story. 

The legend thus given birth was embodied, usually with 
a few additions or modifications, in all of Eusebius' con- 
tinuators. 2 Philostorgius makes the vision a greater celes- 
tial display than did his predecessors. " As to the cause of the 
conversion of Constantine from heathen superstition to the 
Christian faith, Philostorgius, in conformity with all other 
writers, ascribes it to his victory over Maxentius, in a battle 
in which the sign of the cross was seen in the East, vast in 
extent and lit up with glorious light, and surrounded on 
each side by stars like a rainbow, symbolizing the form of 
letters. The letters, too, were in the Latin tongue and 
formed these words, ' In hoc signo vinces V 8 The soldiers 
are in most accounts represented as witnessing the phe- 
nomenon, and a document is in existence purporting to give 
the testimony of an eye-witness in the army, St. Artemius, 
afterwards a martyr. 4 The Vita S, Artemii, however, is 
a crude document from a later date and entitled to no cre- 
dence in this connection. 

In the West, where the occurrence is represented as hav- 
ing taken place, it seems to have been known to few, if any, 
writers Gibbon remarked that "the advocates for the 

1 Cf. supra, p. 106. 

2 Sozomen, i, 3-4; Socrates, i 2; Theodoret, who begins with the 
Arian controversy, refers to it m i, 2; Philostorgius, i, 6. 
8 i, 6, as preserved by Photius. 
* October fSthl soth in Artn 


I 4I 

vision are unable to produce a single testimony from the 
Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries, who, in their vol- 
uminous writings, repeatedly celebrate the triumph of the 
church and of Constantme." x This is certainly true so far 
as Western writers are concerned. Jerome makes no men- 
tion of it whatever, nor does Augustine, though both writers 
had ample occasion to do so. 

Another, and quite contradictory legend of Constantine's 
conversion, through the agency of Bishop Sylvester (314- 
336), gained credence some generations later, and this Euse- 
bian legend remained quite in the background until its com- 
petitor was thoroughly discredited at the beginning of mod- 
ern times. It then became a favorite theme of ecclesiastical 
writers and in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries 
became a common subject of discussion in doctoral disser- 
tations and elsewhere. In modern times it has unquestion- 
ably been the most popular of all Constantinian legends. 

It has this in common with the hostile, pagan legend of 
Constantine's career, previously described, that it assumes 
a sudden and radical conversion of the emperor to Chris- 
tianity. We have already seen that such a violent break 
with paganism, and such an instantaneous and complete ac- 
ceptance of Christianity is not indicated by the historical 
evidence. Zosimus, the pagan, and Eusebius, the Chris- 
tian, (in his Life of Constantine*), exaggerated and intensi- 
fied the process of conversion, the former to the discredit, 
the latter to the glory of the champion of the Supreme 

3. Legends of Saintliness 

Irrespective of the manner of his conversion, Constan- 
tine's support, and final adoption, of Christianity became, 
for all writers belonging to that faith, the central fact of 

1 Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed Bury, vol. ii, p. 305, n 


his reign, the fact that colored all his acts and determined 
his personal character. Thus arose the legend which pic- 
tured him as a man of extraordinary piety, of saintly life, 
and of constant communion with God. Eusebius repre- 
sents him as rebuking a panegyrist for prophesying that he, 
the emperor, was destined to share the empire of the Son of 
God in the world to come. 1 It was, however, only such 
bold flights of fancy as this, from the lips of awkward 
orators, that drew the imperial rebuke Eusebius himself 
is not much more restrained m the praise of his ruler's 
character and of his favor with God. We have already 
seen how one-sided and fulsome with praise of the em- 
peror's piety are both his Oration in Praise of Constantine 
and his Life of Constantine. In both, the emperor was de- 
scribed as without faults or vices, living a life wholly de- 
voted to the service of God His palace, in which dark 
intrigues took place which led, justly or unjustly, to the 
execution of his son and his wife, was described as modeled 
into a church of God. 2 Though there are strong reasons 
for thinking that during most of his reign he maintained 
irregular connection with women which, if not frowned 
upon by contemporary society, was contrary to all the teach- 
ings of Christianity, he was spoken of as superior to sexual 
desire. 3 He was, in short, one " whose character is formed 
after the divine original of the Supreme Sovereign, and 
whose mind reflects, as in a mirror, the radiance of his vir- 
tues." * 

Constantine is said to have built a church of the apostles 
in Constantinople as his own sepulchre, " anticipating with 
extraordinary fervor of faith that his body would share 

1 Life of Constantine, iv, 48. 
* Life of Constantine, iv, 17. 

3 Oration in Praise of Con-stantine, v, 4 Cf. supra, p. 90 et seq* 

4 Ibid. Cf. also, Life of Constantine, i, 3. 


their title with the apostles themselves, and that he should 
thus even after death become the subject, with them, of the 
devotions which should be performed to their honor in this 
place. He accordingly caused twelve coffins to be set up 
in this church, like sacred pillars in honor and memory of 
the apostolic number, in the center of which his own was 
placed. . . ." l If his motive in this be correctly repre- 
sented, it confirms other facts which indicate that he appre- 
ciated to the full the character which others gave him for 
piety, and even exerted himself to heighten his reputation 
in this respect 

The legend of Constantine's extraordinary Christian vir- 
tues was accepted in full by the continuators of the Church 
History of his first biographer; Sozomen, Socrates, Theo- 
doret, Philostorgius, Evagrius, and, with reservations, in 
the West, by Jerome. The former add very little to our 
historical knowledge of Constantine, but they continued and 
amplified the legend of the emperor as an ideal Christian 
saint. In the East, especially, where men knew best the 
last phase of his life, 323-337, when he was more closely 
and publicly allied with the church than he had been before 
that, and where the fierceness of the Diocletian persecution 
made his reign most grateful, imagination glorified his 
memory He came finally to be regarded as a saint in the 
Eastern Church with a festal day observed annually with 
great ceremony, at Constantinople, the city which he had 
founded. 2 He was called Isapostolos, " equal with the 
apostles," and according to Anna Comnena was counted 
among the apostles. 9 Long before this, Theodoret had 

1 Life of Constantine, iv, 60. Told also by subsequent writers, some 
of whom were familiar with the churches of Constantinople. 
* Cf. Acta Sanctorum, on May 21, pp. 13, 14. The Chronicon Alex- 
andnum tells of the ceremony. 

Alexias, 14, 8. 


made the comparison by describing him as " a prince de- 
serving of the highest praise, who, like the divine apostle, 
was not called by man or through man, but by God." x 

In the West Constantine did not quite attain such high 
rank, but he was nevertheless held in high repute as a 
notable Christian and classed as a saint An equestrian 
statue adorning the facades of some churches in parts of 
France has been held by many archaeologists to represent 
the first Christian emperor. 2 His writings have frequently 
been classed with those of the Latin fathers of the church. H 

The significance of this legendary growth is twofold In 
the first place it plainly served as a sedative for uneasiness 
over the entrance of such a potent personage as the emperor 
into the affairs of the church. Over against the pagan 
world there could be only jubilation over the possession of 
such a powerful patron. Over against objectionable Chris- 
tians, too, the Catholic clergy were glad to have the lever- 
age of imperial favor, and the disposal of public funds to 
the exclusion of schismatics. But in the theological con- 
troversies of the early third century even the Catholic 
church and clergy suffered from the access to the emperors 
ear enjoyed by their enemies; thence the consciousness, not 
often expressed, that there were disadvantages attached to 
an imperial protector. There are two remarkable passages 
in Eusebius' Life of Constantine which seem strangely out 
of place in the midst of his extravagant eulogy. In the 
first 4 he merely says that owing to the emperor's good 
nature and lack of discrimination offenses went unpunished, 

1 Chunk History, i, 2. 

1 See Richardson's bibliography on Constantine in Nicene and Post 
Nuene Fathers, Second Series, Eusebius, vol. i, p. 456 fT v tinder 
Arbellot, Audiat, Berthele and Musset. 

* So Migne, who gives them in his P. L , vol. viii. 

4 iv, 31. 

145] EARLY LEGENDS ! 45 

and " this state of things drew with it no small blame on 
the general administration of the empire; whether justly 
or not, let everyone form his own judgment; for myself 
I only ask permission to record the fact." In the second, 
he breaks through his self-imposed reserve, 1 and writes 
bitterly, " In truth I can myself bear testimony to the griev- 
ous evils which prevailed during these times; I mean the 
violence of rapacious and unprincipled men, who preyed on 
all classes of society alike, and the scandalous hypocrisy of 
those who crept into the Church, and assumed the name and 
character of Christians. His own benevolence and good- 
ness of heart, the genuineness of his own faith, and his 
truthfulness of character, induced the emperor to credit 
the profession of these reputed Christians, who craftily pre- 
served the semblance of sincere affection for his person. 
The confidence he reposed in such men sometimes forced 
him into conduct unworthy of himself, of which envy took 
advantage to cloud in this respect the luster of his character. 
These offenders, however, were soon overtaken by divine 
chastisement" 2 The only consolation for the evils of im- 
perial control lay in the thought of the Christian disposi- 
tion of the ruler, and in the hope of divine chastisement of 
evil advisers. Theodoret, a staunch Athanasian, also felt 
called upon to explain how Constantine had been deceived 
by malicious and designing bishops and had " sent so many 
great men into exile/' s He compared him to David, re- 
ceived by Ziba, and ends with the sigh " However, the em- 
peror was translated from his earthly dominion to a better 

1 iv, 54-55- 

2 This, it seems to me, refers to episodes in the church such as the 
case of Eustathius at Antioch, or some phase of the Arian controversy, 
rather than to any graft in civil affairs, with which Eusebius does not 
concern himself at all in the Life of Constantine. 


In the second place the glorification of Constantme as an 
ideal Christian witnesses the acceptance by the church of 
the transformation which, beginning earlier and continu- 
ing later, proceeded most rapidly in this generation. I refer 
to the transformation of the church into a rigidly organized, 
dogmatically defined organization linked to the state. Con- 
stantme as emperor was a powerful factor in this process. 
He and his successors, as emperors and under the aegis of 
his legendary sainthood, occupied a place in the church to 
which as mere individuals they were not entitled Constan- 
tine, it will be remembered, was not baptized and did not 
even become a catechumen, until his last illness overtook 
him. Yet he sat with bishops in council, and directed 1 
the church in important matters In this the church made 
a sacrifice of its independence from which, in the East, 
especially, it never recovered There the emperor retained 
a place in the church corresponding somewhat with that 
which he had held in paganism as pontifex maximus. Ac- 
cording to the story which Theodoret relates of the disci- 
pline imposed by Ambrose upon Theodosius the Great for 
the massacre at Thessalonica, it had been the custom at 
Constantinople before that episode for the emperor to re- 
main with the priests inside the altar-rail after presenting 
his gift at the communion table It remained for Ambrose 
to teach him the distinction made between clergy and laity 
in the West: " The priests alone, O emperor, are permitted 
to enter within the railing of the altar, others must not ap- 
proach it. Retire then, and remain with the rest of the 
laity. A purple robe makes emperors, but not priests." x 
It is well known that the church as a whole rose to Am- 
brose's position and in the Middle Ages no longer stood in 
awe of emperors, and that the papacy rather delighted to 

1 Theodoret, v, 18. 


teach them humility, but the joy of imperial recognition 
was probably too fresh and too great in the time of Con- 
stantme for church officials to fully appreciate the distinc- 
tion between temporal and spiritual power. Instead, it for- 
got the darker side of the emperor's life; it extolled his 
piety and his favor with God and elaborated these themes 
m eulogy and in legend. 

4. Legends of Church Building 

One token of Constantine's devotion to the church was 
especially magnified by tradition In another connection a 
list has been given of the church buildings whose erection 
may with some assurance be assigned to Constantme or his 
family. 1 With the facts of Constantine's munificence in 
church building, and the fact of his being the first Christian 
emperor, as a suggestion to the imagination of subsequent 
generations, legends of buildings erected by him sprang 
up on every hand. Local pride attributed edifices by the 
hundred to him, with which he had no connection what- 
ever. 2 

When buildings actually erected by him, or those con- 
nected with him, were either destroyed or rebuilt, as all of 
them sooner or later were with the exception of the Senate's 
triumphal arch to him, the unmarked site or the later 
structure was still permanently connected with him. 

The Liber Pontificalis gives under the life of Sylvester 
an illustration of the legendary process Here an enormous 
list is given of Constantine's benefactions to the various 
Roman churches. But almost no benefactions by emper- 
ors, or others, of later generations are reported under the 
lives of subsequent popes. A study of the list, and com- 
parison with other parts of the Liber Pontificalis shows that 

*Cf. supra, pp. 57-61. 

* Cf. Lethaby in Cambridge Medieval History, i, pp. 609-611. 


the author or authors conveniently bunched documentary 
and other information about subsequent donations under the 
name of the first Christian emperor and his assumed spir- 
itual father. These were glorified at the expense of the 
fame of those who came after them Undoubtedly the 
same process took place with reference to many buildings 1 

5. Legends of the Founding of Constantinople 2 
A most curious illustration of the work of the legend- 
building imagination is afforded by the fanciful way in 
which the story of Constantine's piety became interwoven 
with almost every great deed of his. Among the many 
successes of Constantine one of the most notable was the 
new city which he built on the site of the ancient Byzan- 
tium With characteristic ambition and energy he made it 
a monument such as no other Roman emperor ever left A 
memorial of his victory over Licinius, on the edge of the 
recruiting fields of the hardiest soldiers of the Roman army, 
Thrace, Macedonia, Illyrica and Dalmatia, the location was 
so admirable that this new Rome, as the Emperor named 
it, 3 became the greatest city of the empire and the last sur,- 
viving seat of its power. It was called Constantinople 
within the lifetime of its founder.* 

1 Gregorovius, City of Rome, i, p. 40 n.; ii, p. 161. 

Curious mistakes of identity were also made; the equestrian statue 
of Marcus Aurelius at Rome was called Constantine the Great through- 
out the Middle Ages. 

* J. Maurice, Les Origines de Constantinople. Mewioires du centen- 
cire des antiquaires de France (1904), pp. 284 et seq., is one of the 
best recent works on the historical facts involved. 

8 Augustine, City of God, v, 25 ; Sozomen, n, 2-3 ; cf. Ducange, Con- 
stantmopohs Christiana, i, 6. 

4 Panegyr. Optatianus Porphyrius, 4, 6; 18, 33; Eusebius, Life of 
Constantine, iv, 58; Eutropius, x, 8; Julian, Orations, i, p. 8; Bordeaux 
Pilgrim, in Migne, P L., vih, col 783 et seq., cf. Ducange, op. cit., i, 
5. This name was doubtless used with the emperor's approval, and per- 
haps by his order, cf. Sozomen, loc. cit* y Socrates, i, 16, 

149] EARLY LEGE\ 7 DS 149 

Aside from legends exaggerating the magnificence of the 
new city and the desolation of Rome, stript to people and 
adorn it, 1 stories of providential omens developed about it. 
A law of Constantine's granting special favors to Constan- 
tinople declares the divine origin of its name. 3 The site 
also, was later said to have been indicated to the emperor by 
God. Sozomen tells how Constantine, resolved upon found- 
ing a city which should be called by his own name, 

repaired to a plain at the foot of Troy, near the Hellespont, 
above the tomb of Ajax, where, it is said, the Achaians in- 
trenched themselves when besieging Troy ; and here he laid the 
plan of a large and beautiful city, and built the gates on an 
elevated spot of ground, whence they are still visible from the 
sea to mariners. But when he had advanced thus far, God 
appeared to him by night, and commanded him to seek an- 
other site for his city. 'Led by the hand of God, he arrived at 
Byzantium in Thrace, beyond Chalcedon in Bithynia, and here 
he was desired to build his city, and to render it worthy of the 
name of Constantine. In obedience to the command of God, 
he therefore enlarged the city, etc. 3 

1 Cf. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, etc., ed. Bury, ii, p. 151 et seq., and 
references given there. 

2 '" Pro commoditate urbis, quam aeterno nomine jubente deo dona- 
vimus, haec vobis pnvilegea credidimus deferenda/' etc. Cod. Theod., 
xiii, 5, 7, Dec I, 334- 

3 ii, 3. Seeck accepts this as historical, and calls the night revelation 
a dream. He holds it to be confirmed by Cod. Theod., xiii, 5, 7, "pro 
commoditate urbis, quam aeterno nomine jubente deo donavimus/' but 
it will be noticed that this claims divine sanction for the name, not the 
site, of the city. I am inclined to look upon the whole story as an in- 
stance of the prevalent tendency to assume supernatural guidance for 
an accomplished fact. It is of a piece with Sozomen's explanation of 
the continued prosperity of the city begun ; " by the assistance of God, 
it became the most populous and wealthy of cities. I know of no cause 
to account for this extraordinary aggrandizement, unless it be the piety 
of the builder and of the inhabitants, and their compassion and liber- 
ality toward the poor." This of Constantinople' 

Burckhardt, on the other hand, cites vague reports that Constantine 


The story of divine guidance extended to the details of the 
laying out the city. Philostorgms x says "that when he went 
to mark the circuit of the city, he walked around it with a 
spear in his hand; and when his attendants thought he was 
measuring out too large a space, one of them came up to 
him and asked him, ' How far, O prince ? ' The emperor 
answered, ' Until he who goes before me comes to a stop * ; 
by this answer clearly manifesting that some heavenly 
power was leading him on, and teaching him what to do." 

Long afterwards, in the West, the heavenly guidance 
was represented as coming in a very different and more 
romantic way. Bishop Aldhelm 2 recites that when Con- 
stantme was in Byzantium once on a time, he had the fol- 
lowing dream. A feeble old woman appeared to him in his 
sleep, and, at the command of Sylvester, bishop of Rome, 

thought of making Sardica (now Sofia, Bulgaria), Thessalonica and 
Chalcedon his new capital. (Zeit Constantms, p 436 ) He also, in his 
effort to show that Constantine was not a Christian, argues that he 
allowed the establishment of pagan cults in New Rome, and that the 
eternal name which he gave the city was that of Flora, Anthusa, or 
some other pagan deity. (Op. dt., pp. 440, 441, 382 et passim.) This 
is altogether unhistorical. 

1 n\ 9- 

2 About 690 A. D , in the Liber de Laudibus Virginitatts, in his Opera, 
ed. Giles, pp. 27 et seq, 151 et seq , in Migne, P. L, Ixxix. Friedrich, 
Constantmische Scheukung, pp. 137-138, thinks the narrative is an inven- 
tion added to the Vita SJvestri with an object, namely, to exalt Sylves- 
ter and the Roman Church of which he was bishop, by having him give 
directions about the founding of Constantinople. England was the 
great ultramontane center of that time, and Fnednch's theory is plaus- 
ible Aldhelm gives it as one of a series of stones about Sylvester, evi- 
dently taken from a copy of the Vita. It is said to be in some MS, 
copies of this work. Nevertheless one is not certain that it is not 
merely the product of a fanciful imagination inserted in the Vita Sil- 
vestn after it had developed m England or elsewhere Constantine's 
connection with their country was not forgotten by medieval English- 
men; they made a national hero out of him, and his legendary memory 
blossomed more grotesquely there than elsewhere Cf. supra, p 120, 

j 5 1 ] EARLY LEGENDS 1 5 x 

he engaged m prayer. The old woman changed into a beau- 
tiful maiden. Constantine covered her with his mantle 
and put his diadem on her head. His mother Helena said 
to him " She will belong to you and will never die." When 
he awoke from this dream Constantine was perplexed and 
sought its solution in a week's fast. Sylvester then ap- 
peared again to him in a dream and told him that the old 
woman was the city of Byzantium in which he then was, 
old and almost in rums. But Constantine was to mount 
the horse on which at Rome in his baptismal robes he had 
ridden to the graves of the Apostles, and take the labarum 
with the sign of Christ in his right hand. He was then to 
let the horse take its way and to drag the shaft of the spear 
along the ground so as to make a furrow. Along this the 
walls of the new city were to be built, which was to bear 
his name, and to be the queen of all cities. Here his de- 
scendants would reign forever. As soon as Constantine 
awoke he went to> work as directed. This version of the 
founding of Constantinople is repeated with variations by 
William of Malmesbury, by Ralph de Diceto and others, 
and passed into general literature. 1 

1 Cf. Richardson in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, Eusebivs, p. 
443 Legends about Constantine and the founding of Constantinople 
abound throughout the Balkan Peninsula. C/. Heydenreich, " Con- 
stantin der Grosse in den Sagen des Mittelalters/' Deutsch. Zeitsch. f. 
Geschichtewissenschaft, ix (1893). Cf. also, art "Roumania" (Liter- 
ature) in Encyclopedia Britannica. 




I. Legends of Constantine' s Conversion by Helena,, of his 
Baptism by ILusebnis of Rome 

THE early, Eusebian legend of Constantme's conversion 
through a miraculous vision, as we have seen, long had 
only a limited scope. Various other legends sprang up in 
different places One, embodied in apocryphal letters, 
ascribed his conversion to the influence of his mother, 
Helena, thus exactly reversing the more probable account 
which Eusebius gives of the religious relationship of the 
two persons. 1 Theodoret may have ascribed to her a part 
in the emperor's spiritual rebirth in a reference he makes 
to her as " most highly blessed in her maternal capacity, 
having been the means of producing that great light which 
she still nourished by religious counsels " 2 

In the mam version of the legend of the finding of the 
true cross in the reign of Constantine, the emperor is said 
to have been instructed in the Christian faith and baptized 
by Eusebius, bishop of Rome (309 or 310) . s In the earlier 

1 Life of Constantine, iii, 47 

*i, 18. Elsewhere, however, he says Constantine "like the divine 
apostle, was not called by man, nor through man, but by God/' i, 2. 
This must refer to his miraculous conversion It is possible that the 
allusion in i, 18, is merely to the fact that Helena gave birth to Con- 

3 For this legend cf. supra, pp. 116-119, 

152 [152 


and more fragmentary allusions to the finding of the cross, 
such as those of Ambrose and Rufinus, this is not included, 
and after the eleventh century, but apparently never before 
then, the name of Sylvester (314-336) is sometimes substi- 
tuted for that of his predecessor x the change being evidently 
a late correction. The baptism by Eusebius of Rome may 
have been invented originally as an orthodox correction for 
the historical baptism by Eusebius of Nicomedia, the Arian, 
made easily and perhaps ignorantly ; and furthered perhaps 
by the fact that Eusebius of Nicomedia, during the last 
four years of his life, was bishop of Constantinople, the 
" capital " of the East as Rome was the " capital " of the 
West 2 In other writings which refer to Constantine's 
baptism,the name of the priest who administered it is often 
omitted. It will be remembered that the name is not given 
m the account of Eusebius of Caesarea. 3 Some subsequent 
writers, either through ignorance, or from theological mo- 
tives, also give no name. Gelasms of Cyzicus, bishop of 
Caesarea in Palestine (c. 475) merely affirms that Constan- 
tine was assuredly baptized, not by a heretic, but by an 
orthodox priest. 4 

2 Earliest Version of Constantine's Leprosy 

When pious story tellers of the fifth and sixth centuries, 
who knew none of the historical facts of Constantine's bap- 
tism, turned their attention to his conversion they produced 

1 J. B. Aufhauser, Konstantins Kreusesvtsion, p. 20, in Ausgewdhlte 
Texte. Cf. also the Inventio sanctae crucis, ed. from Cod. Paris, lat. 
2769 (6th or 7th cent ) by A Holder (Leipsic, 1889), p. 2. 

2 Dolger developes this point at length in "Die Tatif e Konstantins u 
i., Problems/' in Konstantm d. G. u. $. Zeit., pp. 417-422. 

8 Cf. supra, p. 87 et seq. 

* Preserved in Photius, Bibhotheca Cod*, Ixxxix, Migne, P. G., vol. 
103, col. 293 ; given also in Dolger, op. cit., p. 395, n. 2. 


most extraordinary narratives. The oldest of these which 
has been preserved is contained in a homily upon the bap- 
tism of Constantine from James of Sarug, in Mesopotamia 
(452-521 A. D.), a monophysite bishop who wrote in 
Synac * This is his version : Constantine from birth had 
a leprosy upon his forehead and lips, which no physicians 
could heal. After his succession to the throne he sent for 
"* Chaldeans '' from Babylon. These advised him to bathe 
in the blood of freshly-slain infants. The infants were 
collected, but the chief of the slaves and the mothers tried 
to prevent the death of the children. The chief of the 
slaves urged that Constantine would be cured by baptism, 
and cited him an instance of its miraculous effect. Through 
the appearance of an angel the advice of the slave carried 
the day. He ran to the church and asked the bishop to pre- 
pare for the baptism of the emperor. The bishop called his 
priests and they met the emperor, who came from his palace 
with his splendid retinue. The bishop first annointed Con- 
stantine with oil, that he might be cleansed, and that the 
leprosy might not defile the holy water. The leprosy fell 
from him; he praised God, and descended with the priest 
into the water. He was deterred from baptism, however, 
by a flame which burned above the water, until his crown 
was removed. Then, as a simple believer, he was baptized, 
and afterwards he partook of the eucharist 

It is improbable that James of Sarug manufactured the 
whole of his interesting narrative. Judging from the use he 
makes of it as a homily, it must have been in more or less 
general circulation in his part of the world. It has been 
shown by Duchesne 2 that such a version of Constantine 5 s 

1 A. L. Frothmghatn, Jr , L'omelia di Giacomo di Sarug sul battesimo 
di Costantino imperator, pubhcata, tradotta ed annotate, first published 
in Mevnorie della Accademia dei Lmcei, vin, 1882 (Rome, 1883). Froth- 
ingham thinks the homily was pronounced some time after 473, 

2 Liber Pontificahs, vol. I, p. cxvii et seq. 


baptism could scarcely have originated in Byzantine or 
Egyptian sources, and that it must probably have developed 
in the region of Armenia and Syria. 

3. Armenian Version 

We meet this legend, later, in the History of Armenia 
which bears the name of Moses of Chorene (d. 489). This 
work is in reality a miscellany from various sources, and 
while it may have as its base a genuine writing of Moses 
of Chorene, 1 in its present form it can not date from earlier 
than the seventh or eighth century 2 Its story of Constan- 
tine's conversion runs thus : Constantine, while still only a 
Caesar, turned defeat into victory by putting a cross upon 
his banners as had been suggested to him in a dream. Later, 
however, induced by his wife, Maximma, daughter of Dio- 
cletian, he persecuted the Christians and was therefore 
smitten with leprosy Physicians and sorcerers, even one 
sent by Trdat, king of Armenia, did him no good. A priest 
commanded a bath in infants' blood, but at the last moment 
Constantine shrank from the execution of the children. As a 
reward for his tenderheartedness, he was, in a dream, com- 
manded by the apostle to seek healing in baptism at the 
hands of Sylvester, bishop of Rome, then in hiding from 
persecution at Mt Soracte. He did so, and received in- 

1 So F. N. Fink, Die Litteraturen des Ostens, Band vii, Abt 2, p. 92. 
(Leipsic, 1907.) 

* Cf. A. Carnere, Nouvelles sources de Moise de Khoren, Vienne, 
1893; Supplement, Vienne, 1894; A. v. Gutschmid, Moses von Chorene, 
in Kleme Schriften, iii; Paul Vetter, in Literarische Rundschau, 1893, 
p. 264, and Theologische Quartalschrift, 1894, p 49; H. Gelzer, in 
Realencyclopadie fur prof. Theologie; O. Bardenhewer, Patrologie 
(1910), p. 514- 

Duchesne and others, on the basis of the older studies of Armenian 
literature, considered the version which Moses of Chorene gave as 
the oldest form of the legend of Constantine' s baptism by Sylvester at 
Rome, and dated it about the middle of the fifth century. This theory 
must be rejected in the light of the more recent works referred to. 


struction and baptism, became sound, and continued victor- 
ious over his enemies. 

This version of the legend includes various points incor- 
porated from sources outside of Armenia and Syria, such 
as the adoption of the cross for use in battle owing to a 
vision in a dream, and some items which were apparently 
present only in versions quite a little later than the time of 
Moses of Chorene, such as the use of the name of Sylvester, 
bishop of Rome But while it shows familiarity with the 
later Sylvester legend, and has other foreign additions, it 
may well represent a story current in Armenia long before 
the seventh century, current possibly in the days of the real 
Moses of Chorene. 

There were also antecedents in earlier Syrian and 
Armenian stories for legends of royal leprosy and its 
cure by conversion. 1 The legend of Abgar, king of 
Edessa, cured and converted by Addai (Thaddeus) in 
the time of the apostles, was well known throughout the 
east before the fourth century. It had many points of 
resemblance with the legends of Constantine's conver- 
sion as told by James and by Moses above, and as ex- 
panded later, 2 such as the affliction of leprosy, conversion 
accompanied with healing, conversion of nobles and peo- 

1 This sort of story is, of course, confined to no particular country. 
Conversions through miraculous cures are found among most peoples in 
all ages. One of the most remarkable legendary cases is that of the 
emperor Tiberius in a Latin document, dated by its translators in the 
seventh or eighth century, which combines the stones of St. Veronica 
and of Nathan's embassy. Here it is said, " Tiberius was ill, and full 
of ulcers and fevers, and had nine kinds of leprosy." Fortunately, 
when "he adored the image of the Lord," he was healed. Cf. Ante- 
Nicene Fathers* vol. via (New York, 1903), pp. 472-76 Leprosy was 
then, even more than now more common in the East than in the West, 
but too much stress can not be laid on this, as the Scriptures may have 
suggested the type of disease by the stories of Naaman and others. 

s Cf. infra, p. 161 et seq 


pie following that of the king, exhibition of a picture 
(in the case of Abgar, the picture of Jesus), mention of 
the king's mother, hostility toward the Jews, and the 
statement of the king that no one would be compelled 
to become a Christian. 1 

In Armenia, the reign of Trdat (Tiridates), a con- 
temporary of Constantine, was a time of glorious national 
revival. The Roman government then, and for some 
time after, supported the Armenian kingdom against the 
Persians, and the country had a breathing spell before 
its final political dismemberment. This was also the 
time of Gregory the Illuminator, the national saint, to 
whom was assigned credit for the conversion, first of the 
king and ultimately of the people, to Christianity. 
Trdat and Gregory probably visited Constantine and 
made an alliance with him. 2 Caesarea, in Palestine, the 
seat of Eusebius the historian, became later the center to 
which " nascent Armenian Christianity " was bound " in 
the closest ties of intimacy." 3 It was only natural that 
the rich growth of legends about Trdat and Gregory 
should include Constantine in its scope. From the 
Armenian point of view the conversion of Constantine 
would be the central fact in his career and in the history 
of the Roman Empire of that time. One of the legends 
about the Armenian king ran to the effect that he perse- 
cuted the Christians, was transformed into a mere dumb 
animal, and was restored and converted by Gregory. 

1 Cf. Eusebius: Church History, i, 13, also Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 
vii, p. 704. The full legend is given in " The Doctrine of Addai," 
Syrian text and English translation by George Phillips, 1896. Phillips 
accepts the legend as having an historical basis, impossible passages 
being interpolations. 

2 The copy of the treaty, however, printed in Migne, P. L., viii, 579 
582 is spurious. 

*Baynes, in Eng. Hist. Rev., xxv, p. 626 et seq. 


Other portions of the two legends, moreover, show 
similarity. It is therefore plausible that Armenians or 
neighboring Syrians of the fifth century should have 
imagined Constantine to have been healed of his disease 
and converted by the bishop of his capital city. 1 

4. Connection of the Legend with Rome and Sylvester 

Among the differences noted between the legend told 
by James of Sarug and that given in Moses of Chorene 
was the fact that the former left all the actors, with the 
sole exception of Constantine, anonymous, while the 
latter specifically named Sylvester, bishop of Rome, as 
the one who instructed and baptized the emperor. This, 
and some other differences, are to be accounted for, I 
think, by the process, common to the growth of most 
legends, of rounding out and completing legendary de- 
tails as the story goes from mouth to mouth. The 
date of the final redaction of Moses of Chorene's history 
makes it possible that the particulars referred to may 

z The most reliable early Armenian historian of the fourth century is 
now held to be Faustus of Byzantium. (French trans, in Langlois; 
Coll. d hist. Arm., i, 201-310 German trans, by H. Gelzer). He 
confirms the existence of close relationship between the Roman Empire 
and Armenia. For discussion of Armenian historians, see Gelzer: 
" Die Anfange der Armemschen Kirche," in Berichte u. die Verhand. 
d.kon sdchsischen Gesellschaft d. Wissenschaft, Phil hist Klas$e t -x\v\\ t 
(1895) 100-174. Cf. also Bury ed. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, etc., 11, 
PP- 563-565; and Baynes, " Rome and Armenia in the Fourth Cen- 
tury," Eng. Hist. Rev , xxv (1910), pp. 625-643. 

Duchesne contended strongly for the Armenian or Syrian source of 
the legend, and though at points his arguments are not now conclusive, 
I believe that his main proposition, while by no means absolutely 
proven, is the best solution of the question. 

Dolger, in Constantin d. Grosse u. s. Zeit^ pp. 406-407, et passim, 
is unwilling to accept this theory as proven, and attempts to prove the 
Roman origin of at least many of the elements of the story. Cf. 
P- 159- 


have been incorporated in it from some copy of the 
Vita Silvestri described below. On the other hand, it 
is entirely possible that these statements originated in 
Armenia or Syria and that Moses of Chorene represents 
the line by which they entered into the Vita Silvestri. 
In either case the process was probably essentially the 
same. But why was the baptism located at Rome, and 
the priest who administered it identified with Sylvester? 

One answer to this question attributes the develop- 
ment, if not the origin of the legend itself, to Rome, 
Dolger thinks that Eusebius of Nicomedia, who really 
baptized the emperor, becoming later bishop of Con- 
stantinople, was vaguely spoken of as performing the 
rite at New Rome, or the capital city. In the West, 
this phrase suggested Rome, and, as there was a Euse- 
bius who was bishop of Rome in Constantine's time, the 
Roman Eusebius was substituted for the other, and the 
legend in this form proved satisfactory. 1 Later, when it 
became justly recognized that the pontificate of Euse- 
bius came too early to admit of his having converted 
Constantine, Sylvester, his second successor, was put in 
his place. The legend of the finding of the true cross, 
in one form of which Constantine is said to have been 
instructed and baptized by Eusebius of Rome, is cited as 
at once the proof of this theory and perhaps the vehicle 
by which the change was made. 3 

The latter legend, however, did not contain a state- 
ment of the Roman baptism in its earliest forms, 3 prob- 
ably not till after the legend of Constantine's leprosy and 

1 This position lends itself to the support of the theory that the legend 
of the Roman baptism arose in the West, and possibly at Rome, a theory 
which seems to me untenable. 

3 Op. ctt., 416-422. 

* Eg. in Ambrose and Rufinus, cf. supra, p. 119. 


cure had come into existence. Moreover, if as we have 
seen, 1 in the story of the finding of the cross, Eusebius 
continued to hold the place of honor until the eleventh 
century, this legend surely cannot be construed as ex- 
plaining the belief that Sylvester converted Constantine. 
Nor can the fact that a baptistery connected with the 
Lateran church at Rome which Constantine erected was 
later spoken of as the place of his baptism explain the 
Sylvester legend, for this identification of the place of 
the act, also, developed too late. No direct evidence, 
and no important indirect evidence of this legendary 
identification can be adduced, earlier than the statement 
in the Liber Pontificate of Constantine's leprosy, baptism 
and cure by Sylvester, which at the earliest, would not 
take us back beyond the year five hundred and thirty. 2 
It was in any case an absurdity to represent Constan- 
tine as being baptized in a building which he had erected 
in gratitude for the cure effected in his baptism. Legend- 
makers, however, starting with the supposition that he 
had been baptized at Rome, might easily overlook the 
inconsistency of this identification of the spot, or, as 
they probably thought of it, of the baptismal font ; but 
to start with the identification of the building and then 
develop this legend about it would have been too severe 
a tax upon the imagination. 3 

The locating of the baptism at Rome, therefore, and 
the connecting of Sylvester with it, can best be explained, 
if at all, on general considerations. Rome was the an- 
cient and most famous capital of the empire, and Sylves- 
ter was bishop there during most of Constantme's reign 
( *., 314-336); thus the location of the rite at Rome 

1 Cf, supra, p. 153. 

1 Cf. ed. Duchesne, vol. i, pp. 78, 172-174. 

8 Cf. infra, pp. 161-165 et $eq* 


and its connection with Sylvester, whether effected in 
the West, or as seems more probable, in the East, was 

Thus Constantine's conversion entered into the stream 
of one of the most extraordinary legendary develop- 
ments in the church, that centering in Pope Sylvester 
and preserved in the Vita Silvestri^ 

5. Vita Silvestri. 

The best known version of the Vita (or Gesta) Sil- 
vestri is the Latin one given by Mombritius. 2 The fol- 
lowing synopsis is based chiefly on his account : 

1 The chief apocryphal or legendary account of Sylvester is a long 
and fairly well defined story variously referred to as Liber Silvestri, 
Vita Silvestri, or Gesta Silvestri, not to be confused with the *' vita" or 
gesta Silvestri in the Liber Pontificahs, though this refers to incidents 
in the story and evidently accepts it. 

The legend has been preserved in three languages, as follows: Latin, 
Mombritius, Sanctuarium, sive Vitae colleciae ex codibusMSS. (Milan, 
about 1479, and in a recent edition in Paris in 1910) vol. ii, folio 279 
et seq. t and ii, 508-531, respectively. Cf. also Analecta Bollandtana, 
vol. i, p. 613 et seq.j by P. Ch de Smedt. Cf. also Catalogus Cod. 
hagiographicorum bibl. reg. Sruxellensis^ pp. 5, 119; L. Surius, De 
probatis sanctorum vitis (Coloniae Agnppinae, 1618), in volume on 
December, Dec. 31, pp 368-375, a translation from the Greek of Simeon 
Metaphrastes, Greek, Combefis: Illustnum Chr^st^martyrumtriu'mphi 
Paris, 1659), p. 254 et seq., from MS. Mazannaeus, No. 513, Bibh- 
otheque Nationale. Another Greek text is in MS. Cod., Paris, 1448, 
folio I. Syriac* Land, Anedocta syriaca, vol. iii, pp. 46-76, from MS. 
Brit. Mus. Add., 17202, of the sixth or seventh century. Another 
version in MS. 12174, Brit. Mus. Cf. Duchesne: op. cit., i, cix. 
Later repetitions of the legend in Byzantine authors are: Ephraem (in 
the I4th century), ed. Bekker (Bonn, 1840), pp 21-25; ed. Migne, P. 
G., vol. 143, cols. 1-380. Cedrenus: Compendium of History, ed. 
Bekker (Bonn, 1838-9), vol. i, pp. 472-520, ed Migne, P. G., vols. 
121-122. Zonaras: Chromcle, ed. Migne, P. G., vol. 134, cols. 1097- 
1118. Glycas: Chronicle, ed. Bekker (Bonn, 1836), pp. 460-468, ed. 
Migne, P. G., vol. 158, cols. 1-958. For a short summary of Glycas' 
version, see Richardson's " Prolegomena," in Nicene and Post hicene 
Fathers, Eusebius, p. 442, and for comments on the other authors, pp. 

2 See Duchesne: Ltber Pontificalis, i, pp. ex, cxii, cxiii. Synopsis 


A dedicatory letter says the accompanying life of Syl- 
vester was taken from the Acts of the bishops of the 
principal sees which, together with many Acts of mar- 
tyrs, were written by Eusebius of Caesarea but not in- 
cluded in his Church History. 1 Sylvester, a young 
Roman, entertained Timothy of Antioch fleeing from 
persecution. Timothy, however, was executed and Syl- 
vester threatened with death, which he escaped by a 
miracle. Bishop Miltiades (or Melchiades) raised him 
to the priesthood, and at the death of that bishop, Syl- 
vester, against his own will, was made his successor. 
After a long description of his administration, a visit of 
Euphronius from Antioch to Rome is narrated, at whose 
advice Sylvester changes the garb of his higher clergy, 
calls the days of the week by numerals instead of names, 
and makes Sundays and Thursdays festival days, with 
Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays fast days. Next, 
Sylvester frees Rome from a dragon dwelling under the 
Tarpeian rock. (This episode is omitted by Mombritius). 

Then begins the legend of Constan tine's conversion. 
At the instance of his wife, Maximiana, daughter of 
Diocletian (a gross historical error), Constantine begins 
a persecution from which Sylvester took refuge in Mt. 
Syraptim (probably an imaginary name, but afterwards 
identified with Soracte). The emperor is afflicted with 
leprosy, to cure which pagan priests order a bath in the 
blood of infants. Infants are collected for the purpose, 
but Constantine relents and sends them home. In the 

given here is, in part, taken from this work, vol. i, p. ex, et seq* For 
a short summary in English, see Hodgkm: Italy and her Invaders, vii, 
p. 135 et seq. 

x The version published bySurius (p. 368) does not connect EusebiuV 
name with the story, leaving it anonymous. Cf. Friedrich: Constan- 
Unische Schenkung* pp. 79-81. 


night Saints Peter and Paul appear to him, promising m 
reward for this, healing from his disease if he will seek 
out Sylvester and do as he says. In the presence of the 
emperor Sylvester shows likenesses of Peter and Paul, 
who are identified by Constantine as the persons who 
appeared to him. Then follows Christian instruction, a 
solemn fast, and baptism of the emperor in the baths of 
the Lateran palace. As Constantine enters the water, a 
bright light is seen, and he is healed. 

Constantine then directs that Christ be worshipped 
everywhere, that blasphemy be punished, and that 
churches be built with public money. There is, how- 
ever, to be no new church organized without sanction 
from the bishop of Rome, and all other bishops are to 
be subject to him. The eighth day after his baptism 
Constantine commenced the building of the basilica of a 
church of St. Peter ; the next day he began to build a 
church in the Lateran palace, and issued edicts for the 
conversion of pagans. The Senate still remaining pagan, 
Constantine called an assembly in the Ulpian Basilica, at 
which he urged conversion on the strength of his ex- 
perience, but says he will not compel men to change. 

Helena, then living in Bithynia with her grandchildren, 
writes approving Constantine's renunciation of paganism, 
but urging him to adopt Judaism. The matter is de- 
cided on August 13, 315 (die iduum aug. Constantino 
Aug. IV et Licinio Aug. IV cons.) by a disputation be- 
fore Constantine and Helena at Rome between Sylvester 
and twelve Jewish rabbis. The pope successfully up- 
holds the doctrine of the trinity and the incarnation 
(stating the latter so as to exclude monothelitism so 
thoroughly that some have detected a trace of Nestorian- 
ism). The rabbis then show the power of their religion 
by whispering the name of Jehovah into the ear of a bull, 


killing him instantly, to the astonishment of all. Syl- 
vester, however, raises the bull from the dead by whisper- 
ing the name of Christ. Helena and great multitudes 
with her are thereby converted to Christianity. 

The Latin versions of the legend end with two episodes, 
the miraculous founding of Constantinople, and the find- 
ing of the true cross, which are not found in the Greek 
versions. 1 

6. Development of the Sylvestet-Constantine Legend 
To understand the history of this legend it is neces- 
sary to distinguish between the legend itself (z. e. the 
bare story that Constantine was a persecutor afflicted 
with leprosy, and was converted, baptized and cured 
through the agency of Sylvester at Rome) and differ- 
ences of detail or variations in the different written 
versions. The legend, in its bare outlines, as we have 
seen, probably originated, not at Rome, but on the out- 
skirts of the Empire, among people familiar only with 
the great names and events of Roman history. Aside 
from considerations already mentioned, the scarcity and 
confusion of the topographical references it contains, its 
slow growth in popularity at Rome, and the stress it 
lays upon the visit and advice of Timotheus, indicate a 
foreign, probably an Eastern source, and possibly a 
source as far east as Syria and Armenia. 

1 The best discussions of this Sylvester legend are: Dollinger, Papst- 
fabeln des Mittelalters, 1863, ed. by Fnedrich with notes, 1890. (Dol- 
linger's further work on the legend was left unfinished at his death;. 
Frothmgham, ed. Homily on the Bapttsm of Constanttne, (L'Omeha 
di Giacomo di Sarug) in Memone della r Accademia de^ Ltncei, classe 
d^ scienze morale, vol. vni, 1883). J- Langen, Geschichte d. rom. 
Kirche ( 1885) , , P IQ5 et ^q. Abbe Duchesne, ed. Liber Pontificals, 
vol. i (1886), pp cvii-cxx F. J. Dolger, " Die Taufe Konstantms u L 
Probleme," in Konstantin d Grosse u. s. Zett (1913), pp. 377-381, 
394-426. Friedrich, Dte Constant^n^sche Schenkung, Nordlingen, 1889 


At Rome itself this legend first comes to light in refer- 
ences to books containing it, in the time of Pope Sym- 
machus (498-514). There is no record in writers, his- 
torians, poets, orators, official documents, liturgies or 
inscriptions, of any local Roman tradition connected with 
the legend until the eighth century. In fact, there is 
no trace of the legend in extant inscriptions or monu- 
ments in Rome before the tenth century. 1 It came into 
vogue very slowly and does not seem to have prevailed 
there until after it had been taken up in many other 
places. These considerations show both the lack of any 
historical ground whatever for the legend, and its non- 
Roman source. 1 

However the legend of Constantine's leprosy and cure 
started, it got to Rome by the end of the fifth century, 
possibly earlier. Duchesne thinks it may have been put 
into literary Latin by some eastern monk such as Dion- 
ysius Exiguus. 3 The legend and a book containing it 
are referred to in the forged documents brought out by 
ecclesiastical controversies centering about Symmachus 
(bishop of Rome 498-514). The pseudo [?] Decretum 
Gelasii P. de recipiendis et non recipiendis libris (c. A. 
D. 501, Duchesne: after 533, Friedrich) 4 says that the 
anonymous Acts of Sylvester are read by many of the 
orthodox in Rome and many churches elsewhere and 
does not condemn the practice. 5 The pseudo Consti- 

1 Duchesne, op. c^t. 1 i, pp. cxih, cxvi. */df., i, cxvi. 

8 Op. cit , vol. i, p cxiii et seq. 

*Cf. Mirbt, in Real Encyk. vi, 475, for the view that it was merely 
revised and interpolated under Pope Hormisdas (514-523), 

5 Actusbeati Silvestri, apostolicae sedis praesulis, licet e jus qui con- 
scnpsit nomen ignoretur, a multis tamen in urbe Romana cathohcis 
legi cognovimus, et pro antiquo usu multae hoc imrnitantur ecclesiae, 
* * * beati Pauli apostoh praecedat sententia: *omnia probate, quod 
bonum est venete.' 


tut^lm Silvestri (about 501-508, Duchesne, op. tit., i, 
cxxxiv) mentions briefly the leprosy and cure. The 
pseudo Gesta Liberii, from the same time, refers to an 
old work which told of Constantine's leprosy and his 
cure by Silvester. 1 

These references show that there must have been in 
existence at Rome by the beginning of the sixth cen- 
tury, a book containing the legend of Constantine's 
leprosy and baptism by Silvester, that it was not asso- 
ciated with the name of any author, did not enjoy a great 
vogue, for its truthfulness was questioned, and it needed 
apology. It certainly must have contradicted not only 
the facts of history, but current opinion as well. 2 

It is probable that toward the end of the sixth cen- 
tury this anonymous Vita Silvestri was touched up by 
an enthusiast for the primacy of Rome who saw the 
opportunity it afforded. It was not made much of, so 
far as we know, in the middle of the century after the 
stormy days of Symmachus. But by the time of Greg- 
ory the Great 3 we find a version with added details, 
represented in the text published by Mombritius. 4 

lst Hoc cum [Liberms] legisset ex libro antique, edoctus a Kbro Sil- 
vestri episcopi Romanorum, et quod pubhce praedicaret, in nomine 
Jesu Chnsti a lepra mundatum fuisse per Silvestrum Constantium patrum 
Constantius." In emphasizing the antiquity of the Liber or Vita Olives- 
in, and commending it by affirming its use by Liberius, the forger proba- 
bly gives himself away, as is pointed out by Duchesne, for in the Vita 
Silvestn Liberius is unhistorically represented as already dead. The 
forger, however, may have had another text of the Vita Silvestri. 

a Friedrich thinks that this form is represented by the version pub- 
lished by Surius, which is also anonymous. Cf. Constantmische Schen- 
kungi p. Si. For fuller discussion of the above, see Friedrich, 70-81, 
and Duchesne, op. czt., i, pp cxin-cxv. 

*Pope, 590-604. 

4 Friedrich, op, cit^ p 81 et seq. Duchesne had, before Friedrich, 
given approximately the same date, but looked upon the version in 
Monbritius as the earliest extant form from which other versions were 


Here the whole legend of Sylvester purports to be 
taken from a collection of twenty books of Acts of 
martyrs and bishops of the principal sees written by 
Eusebius of Caesarea. The name of Sylvester's mother 
is given, the speech of Sylvester against the Jewish 
rabbis has a decided turn against the monothelites, and 
Constantine is made to emphasize the primacy of Rome, 
while Sylvester is not represented as making the trip to 
Constantinople, of which the version in Surius tells. 

This version had apparently become known in the east 
before the end of the sixth century, where in fact the 
Vita Silvestri generally became popular, and seems even 
to have displaced the original eastern form of the legend 
of Constantine's conversion. 1 

Friedrich has discussed an interesting passage in the 
correspondence of Gregory the Great, in which Eulogius, 
patriarch of Constantinople, wrote to him asking for a 
copy of the collection of the Acts of martyrs and bishops 
written by Eusebius. Gregory replied 2 that he had not 
known whether they had been collected or not, and that 
he had not been able to find in his archives or in libraries 
at Rome any except a few scattered Acts in one manu- 
script volume. If he found any such collection as was 
asked for he would send it. Friederich's interpretation 
of all this is that the Vita Silvestri, worked over in the 
interest of the primacy of the bishop of Rome, and vali- 
dated by a preface claiming Eusebian authorship, had 

1 Duchesne, op, tit., i, p. cxx. One of the Greek renderings even re- 
tained the part of the preface stating that the work was translated from 
the Greek into Latin, thus putting his Greek into the embarrassing 
position of being a translation from the Greek. This process reminds 
one of a form of the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin , which wa 
translated into French, then this was translated into English, and this 
back into French. Cf. Macdonald's ed., p. xv. 

1 July, 598. 


fallen into the hands of Eulogius at Alexandria. He 
thereupon put Rome into an embarrassing situation by 
writing for the collection of the Acts by Eusebius from 
which the Vita Silvestri in its preface claimed to come. 
Gregory, in reply, could only imply that the other Acts 
were scattered and lost, and asks for time. 1 Though 
these inferences are in places overdrawn, the passage 
certainly looks like a reference to the preface of the Vita 
Silvestri, and the implications must, in the main, be 

After Gregory, the Vita Silvestri was called to the 
attention of pilgrims in a Roman pilgrim book composed 
under Pope Honorius (625-638) . a The Liber Pontifi- 
calis incorporated in its life of Silvester his flight to 
Syraptim, the baptism of Constantine by Silvester, and 
Constantine's cure from leprosy. 3 

A legend combining two such personages as Constan- 
tine and Sylvester could hardly remain entirely stereo- 
typed. The manuscripts which have come down in differ- 
ent languages show considerable variation of incident. 
Friednch has argued with considerable plausibility that 
the legend of the miraculous founding of Constantinople 
through a dream in which Sylvester figured, came into 
it not long before the end of the seventh century. 4 
Not many generations after this a modified version of it 
appeared as the Constitutum Constantini, that famous 
document which containing the Donation of Constantine 
was destined to play a great part in the history of Europe. 

'Friedrich, op. czt., pp. 83-87. 

* Dollinger, Papstfabeln, ed. Friedrich, p. 65. 

8 Ed. Dtichesne, i, 170 et seq ed. Mommsen, p 47 et seq. The 
former assigns the original compilation, including Sylvester's life, to a 
time not later than Boniface IT (530-532). Mommsen, following 
Waitz, puts the work in the beginning of the seventh century. 

*Cf. supra, pp. 150-151. 


General Acceptance of the Sylv ester- Constantine Legend 
The emergence of the legend of Constantine's Roman 
baptism brought medieval writers face to face with a 
question of fact, for the knowledge of the earlier ac- 
counts of his baptism at Nicomedia had been preserved, 
not only in the east by Eusebius and his followers, but 
in the west by Ambrose, Jerome, Prosper and other 
authors. The former legend was also contradicted by 
the widely used Historia Tripartita, compiled from the 
three continuators of Eusebius' Church History. Con- 
fronted with this problem of historical criticism, the 
middle ages followed its natural bent and accepted the 
one which appealed most to its imagination and its 
orthodoxy. A few writers such as Isidore (636), Fred- 
egar (658), Frehulf (c. 840), Hermann the Lame of 
Reichenau (c. 1050) and Marianus Scotus (c. 1050), 
held to the older version of Constan tine's baptism, in 
some cases apparently not knowing the later legend, in 
some cases rejecting it. The Sylvester legend, however, 
won the field almost completely and in the later middle 
ages was seldom disputed. 1 It furnished one of the 
arguments at the second council of Nicea for the use of 

1 Dollinger in Papstfabeln , ed Friedrich, pp. 65-72 et passim ^ col- 
lected a long and almost exhaustive list of references in medieval writ- 
ers. Duchesne: Liber Pontificahs, i, p cxv, gives a number of refer- 
ences in both Latin and Greek authors, concluding that after the 
commencement of the ninth century all the Byzantine chroniclers 
admit the Sylvester legend more or less completely. 

In the West, at the end of the sixth century, Gregory of Tours, 
Hist. Franc., ii, 31, described the baptism of Clovis; "prccedit novus 
Constantmus ad lavacrum, deleturus leprae vetens morbum, sorden- 
tesque maculas gestorum antiquorum recenti latice deleturus." The 
Anglo-Saxon bishop Aldhelm, at the end of the seventh century, is 
thought to have introduced the Constantme-Sylvester legend into gen- 
eral literature in his "Liber de laudibus ^irgl'nitat^s " chap. 25 (cf. 
Friedrich: Con. Schenck., pp. 136-137). The subsequent list includes 
Bede, Ado, Pope Paul I., Pope Hadrian I., Odericus Vitalis, Hugo of 


images. 1 Even in modern times it was incorporated in 
Baronius' Annals* and taken seriously by Severinus 
Binius, whose comments are printed as notes in Migne's 

The whole story of Constantine's leprosy, cure and 
baptism gained graphical representation in a series of 
ten pictures in the oratory of St. Sylvester adjoining the 
church of Quattro Incoronati at Rome. These probably 
date from the restoration of the oratory in the thirteenth 
century, but may possibly be earlier. 4 Later tradition 
located the spot where Constantme and Sylvester were 
supposed to have parted. 5 It even influenced geography 
by identifying the Syraptis or Syraptim of the legend 
with the real Soracte and changing the latter name to 
the former. Here, very fittingly, a monastery ol St. 
Sylvester was built in the eighth century. 6 

The reasons for the popularity and well-nigh universal 
acceptance of this incredible legend are revealed by 
writers who discussed it before it had entirely displaced 
the historical facts. It seemed unthinkable to them that 
Constantine should have presided at the Council of 

Fletiry, Ratramnus, Bomzo, Martmus Polonus, all the papal chroniclers 
after the Liber Pontificalis, Nicholas I , Leo IX., collections of canon 
law by Anselm, Deusdedit, Gratian (in the paJea, or later insertions), 
the Kaiserchronik, Konrad von Wurzburg, Wolfram von Eschenbach, 
and others. 

1 Cf. the first Act of the Council. 

2 Under A. D. 324, the date to which the Roman baptism of Con- 
stantme was commonly assigned, No. 32 et seq. 

s Latin series, vin, col. 795 et seq. 

*Cf. Arch, della Societa rom. di St. patria xu (i88g), p. 162. Man- 
cini: Vita di Lorenzo Valla, p. 154, note. 

6 Gregorovius: Rome in the M^ddle Ages, 11, p 361 

6 Duchesne: Op cit., i, p. cxix. Hartmann, Italien im Mitielalter, 
Band ii, Halfte n (Gotha, 1903), p. 222. 


Nicea, while still unbaptized. His baptism by Eusebius 
of Nicomedia, a bishop tainted with Arian heresy, seemed 
either improbable, or the result of a relapse, not a nat- 
ural consequence of his conversion from paganism. 
Moreover, how could such a hero have postponed bap- 
tism to his death-bed? The existence in Rome of a 
baptistery bearing the name of Constantine helped to 
localize the place of his baptism. Moreover, the miracu- 
lous element, instead of being an obstacle to acceptance 
of the legend, was fairly demanded by the great signifi- 
cance of Constantine's conversion. The absence of early 
accounts corroborating it proved only that Constantius 
had tried to suppress the story of his father's leprosy. 1 

Men of the Middle Ages were skilled harmonizers of 
discrepancies. Their treatment of this legend shows 
that their business was not primarily to discover facts, 
but to systematize accepted teachings. They, therefore, 
after accepting the legend, easily disposed of the his- 
torical Nicomedian baptism. The Gesta Liberii smoothed 
over difficulties by postulating another emperor of the 
same name. Bishop Bonizo rejected the Eusebian bap- 
tism as an error growing out of confusion of fact and 
name, due to the belief that Bishop Eusebius of Rome 
had instructed Constantine in Christianity. Ekkehard, 
about noo, accepted both baptisms and harmonized 
them by the supposition that Constantine after his Roman 
conversion had fallen into the Arian heresy which led to 
his having the rite repeated by Eusebius of Nicomedia. 
This happy device seems to have been generally fol- 
lowed. The problem was then, from all points of view, 
solved to the satisfaction of the medieval mind, and the 
wonderful legend of Sylvester's relations to Constantine 

1 So Severinus Binms. Cf. Migne, op. cit. t col. 800. 


had clear sailing. It still forms a part of the Roman 
Breviary^ to be read on Sylvester's Day, the last day of 
the calendar year. 1 

So the piety of the early Middle Ages found one of its 
most characteristic utterances. The wonder-working 
power of God was displayed in the miracles of the Syl- 
vester legend, and the triumph of the Christian faith set 
forth in glowing colors. But the hero of these divine 
manifestations was no longer Constantine, as in the 
earlier legend, it was Sylvester, the priest and bishop. 
The emperor took his true place as a mere creature of 
this world, the object of God's wrath for his sins, and 
the beneficiary of a priest's intercession when his heart 
had relented. The kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of 
priests, had come into its own ; its glory and its power 
made the Roman emperor himself but a miserable, help- 
less mortal in comparison with the divine power dis- 
pensed by the Pope, the head of the church. 

1 The revision of the Breviary recently completed consists merely of 
a rearrangement of parts and makes little or no change in the contents. 
C/., also, tinder Nov. 9 and 18. 





i. The Constitut^m Constantini and the Donation it 
* Contains 

WE have seen that medieval legends of Constantine r 
especially that of his healing and baptism by Sylvester,, 
existed in a more or less fluid state. This is true of all 
legends, indeed of all narratives in manuscript, and in a 
lesser degree even of some printed documents. Varia- 
tions in printed books, however, are slight and unim- 
portant, compared to those which develop in oral or 
manuscript tradition. Many medieval writers, in copy- 
ing narratives of others, treated them as an author would 
treat his own notes, omitting, adding and changing at 
will. Not a little of our modern sense of accuracy and 
truth in historical work is due to the mechanical inven- 
tion of printing. 1 When, therefore, a form of this par- 
ticular legend emerged in which Constantine donated 
land, privileges and authority to Sylvester as bishop of 
Rome and pope, one scarcely knows whether to call it 
forgery or romance. Since the author of it, however, 
evidently took pains to give what he thought to be a 
legal form and specified grants which would really be of 
use and importance in his time, it is not too harsh a 
judgment to pronounce his words a forgery, such as 
even the laws of his own time severely condemned. 2 

1 For this suggestion I am indebted to Professor J. H. Robinson. 

2 The motive of the forgery will be discussed below, p. 211 et seer. 
Cf. also supra, pp. 12-13. 

175] 175 


The Donation of Constantine (or Constitutum Con- 
stantim, to use the original title of the entire document) 1 
extended the legend of the Vita Silvestri by expanding 
and developing the emperor's expression of piety and 
gratitude for his miraculous cure from leprosy. It is a 
document of some 3,000 words, purporting to be from 
the hand of Constantine, running in his name, and with 
the imperial subscription. It contains the usual divisions 
of a medieval legal charter: "invocation of the Trinity," 
" title of the emperor/' " address" to Sylvester, "greet- 
ing," then a rather long " proem " in the form of a con- 
fession of faith and a long " narration " of Constantine's 
leprosy and cure by baptism as contained in the Vita Sil- 
vestri. After this comes the " disposition " reciting that 
since Sylvester is the vicar of the Son of God, he and his 
successors shall have enlarged power and greater than 
imperial honor, and shall have primacy over the sees of 
Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople (which even ac- 
cording to the legend itself had not yet been founded, 
much less made an episcopal see) and Jerusalem, and 
over the whole Church universal. Constantine proclaims 
that he had built the Lateran church and baptistry and 
makes it "head and summit of all churches." He has 
built and ornamented the churches of St. Peter and of 
St. Paul, and to supply their lamps with oil has given 
them endowments in Judea, Greece, Asia, Thrace, Africa, 
Italy and various islands. He gives to Sylvester, " chief 
priest and pope of the whole Roman world," the Lateran 
palace, his own diadem or crown, frigium, collar, purple 

1 Strictly speaking, the phrase "Donation of Constantine" applies 
only to one section of the document, that in which the grant of priv- 
ileges and possessions (the donatto) is made, but the use of the phrase 
as synonomous with the whole document, the Constitutum Constan- 
ttni, is so general that it is almost unavoidable. 


robe, scarlet tunic and all imperial insignia, scepter, 
seals, etc. To the Roman clergy he gives the privileges 
of Roman nobility, the special right to use white cover- 
ings for their horses and other distinctive trappings, and, 
with the pope, the sole control over entrance to priestly 
honors. He deeds his golden diadem again to the pope, 
but since it would not be fitting for him to wear this 
over his priest's headdress which he wears to the honor 
of St. Peter, the emperor proposes to honor him other- 
wise, notably by himself acting as his squire and leading 
his horse. That the pope's office may not be cheapened, 
Constantine again gives him his own palace, also "the 
city of Rome and all the provinces, places and states of 
Italy, and the western regions, " (i. e. Lombardy, 
Venetia, and Istria). He furthermore transfers his own 
empire to Byzantium, because " where the primate of 
priests and the head of the Christian religion is estab- 
lished by the heavenly emperor, it is not right than an 
earthly emperor should have authority there." 

Then follows the "sanction" solemnly confirming this 
donation forever, and threatening any scoffer, oddly 
enough, with no physical penalty, but that he would en- 
counter the opposition of SS. " Peter and Paul in this 
life and the future, and go down to be burned in the lowest 
hell with the devil and all the impious." The " corrobora- 
tion " follows, affirming the signatures by the emperor's 
own hands (sic), etc.; then follow the final "protocol" 
with the fact of signature indicated, and the benediction, 
and the date (in an imaginary and impossible consulship). 1 

1 For full text of the document, /. Appendix ii. The text I have 
used is by far the best one published, from the oldest MS. and splendidly 
edited, namely, that of Zeumer, in the Festgabe fur Rudolf 'von Gneist, 
Berlin, 1888. This text is also given in Haller, Die Quellen zur 
Geschichte der Entstehung des Kirckenstaats (1907, ) p. 241 et seq. There 


2. Acceptance and Use of the "Donation" 

Such was the document which was incorporated in the 
Pseudo-Isidorean Decretals when this collection was 
made in the middle of the ninth century. 1 It was cited 
as authoritative by Ado of Vienne and Hincmar of 
Rheims. It was accepted in the collections of canon law 
by Anselm of Lucca, Cardinal Deusdedit, the so-called 
Ivo of Chartres, Hugo of Fleury, de regia potestate et 
ecclesiastica dignitate and, though omitted by Gratian 
himself, was soon put in his collection under the " palea." 
It was referred to as valid or used by many popes, in- 
cluding Leo IX, Urban II, Eugenius III, Innocent III, 
Gregory IX, 8 Innocent IV, Nicholas III, Boniface VIII, 
and John XXII. Though Gregory VII apparently did 
not use it, his representative, Peter Damiani, did so. It 
may possibly have been in the mind of other popes who 
exacted oaths from prospective emperors that they would 
preserve all the rights and possessions granted by all 
previous emperors to the see of St. Peter, and may also 
have influenced Hadrian IV. 3 

It was accepted by the great majority of the writers of 
the Middle Ages, lawyers, historical writers, theologians. 
Even those who regretted it or denied its validity, and 

are also texts in Gratiert, Die Konstantinische Schenkung and Friednch, 
ditto Hmschius, ed., Decretales pseudo-Isidowanae (1863), pp 249- 
254; and elsewhere. For English translation, see E. F. Henderson, 
Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages t pp. 319-329. 

between 847 and 853, Hinschius, op. ctt., p. cci. 

*For extended account of its use by Gregory IX., see Gregorovius, 
Rome in the Middle Ages, vol. v, pp. 185-186 

8 For most of these and some other references, cf Dollmger, op. cit., 
chapter on "Constant. Schenkung." Cf. also Codex diplomaticus 
domimitemporahs s. sedis* I (Rome, 1861), p, 434, for Clement V in 
1310. Cf. t also Cathohc Encyclopedia, Art. "Donation of Constan- 


opposed extension of papal power, for the most part did 
not question its genuineness. Dante's feelings on the 
subject were very strong, but he had no thought of 
denying that the donation had taken place. 1 A difficulty 
was involved for the theologians, for they held that the 
Pope's power was derived from God, not from man, that 
he was the successor of St. Peter, and primate of the 
Church from the very first. Their talent for harmoni- 
zing was highly developed, however, and where they 
thought of the inconsistency involved they solved it by 
postulating that Constantine's donation was merely a 
restitution of what other emperors and ecclesiastics had 
usurped from Rome. 

The Greeks took the Constitutum Constantini into 
their canon law in spite of its exaltation of the bishop of 
Rome. This was more than counter-balanced in the 
eyes of their clergy by the fact that the second ecu- 
menical council granted the bishop of Constantinople 
privileges similar to those enjoyed by the bishop of 
Rome. Thus they were not averse to increasing the 
latter. Theodore Balsamon (about 1169) put it in his 
collection. Matthew Blastares (about 1335) followed 
his example, and it is found in many other places. It 
was used by Greek writers and even by the emperors.* 

The legend was carried to the second degree in a 
popular story that when the donation was made an 
angel's voice was heard saying, "Alas, alas, this day has 
poison been dropt into the Church of God." 3 This saga 

1 Cf. Inferno V. } ii^et seq., De Monarchia, Book iii., 10. 

2 Cf. Dollmger, op. cit., pp. 76-78 It also entered through this 
channel into the Russian church, ftnd., p. 120. 

3 Reginald Pecock, depressor of overmuch Blaming- of the Clergy 
(printed Rerum britannicarum medii aew, scripiores no. 19, London , 
1860), p. 351 


evidently grew up among the Ghibellines of Germany, 
who saw only evil in the donation. Walther von der 
Vogelweide gave eloquent expression to it : " King Con- 
stantine, he gave so much as I will tell you to the see 
of Rome, spear, cross and crown. Then the angels 
cried, ' Alas I alas ! alas ! Christendom before stood 
crowned with righteousness. Now is poison fallen on 
her, and her honey turned to gall. Woe to the world 
henceforth ! ' To-day the princes all live in honor, only 
their highest one languishes, so works the priests' elec- 
tion. Be that denounced to thee, sweet God ! The 
priests would upset laymen's rights : true is the angel's 
prophecy." x 

It was maintained by some, however, that it was the 
devil's voice that was heard, trying to deceive the Church 
and lamenting his own defeat. Since the event which 
was lamented was entirely imaginary it will never be 
possible to tell which writers had the best ears for dis- 
tinguishing sounds from the other world. 

The part that the Donation of Constantine played in 
the Middle Ages has been strongly emphasized by many 
modern historians. The late E. M. Hodgkin 2 wrote 
that " the story of the Donation of Constantine fully told 
would almost be the history of the Middle Ages. * * * 
Under Innocent III, Gregory IX, Boniface III, it is 
constantly appealed to in support of their pretensions to 
rule as feudal suzerains over Italy, over the Holy Roman 
Empire, over the world. For three centuries after this, 
the canonists take the Donation as the basis of their airy 

1 Pfeiffer-Bartsch ed., 85, 164 Cited in Taylor, Medieval Mind, n, 
p. 35. For reference to the saying in other writers, cf. Dollinger, op. 
cit. t p 113 et seq 

2 Italy and her Invaders, vii, p. 135 et seq. Quoted in part, supra, 
p. 13 


This far overshoots the mark. The Donation undoubt- 
edly influenced the formation of politico-ecclesiastical 
theories and furnished ammunition to church authorities 
for argument. But even in the realm of theory and 
argument it was not decisive. Supporters of secular 
authority who admitted its genuineness extracted its 
sting by many ingenious devices. Some maintained 
that it was not valid because Constantine was a heretic, 
baptized or rebaptized in the Arian heresy. 1 Some 
argued that it was invalid because the empire could not 
be alienated without the consent of the people, which 
was lacking. 2 Some limited the validity of the gift to 
Constantine's own reign. Others turned the Donation 
into a back-handed blow at the papacy by the fact that 
it represented papal primacy and honor as derived, not 
from God, but from the emperor. 3 On the other hand, 
it is significant that the first pope who gained a clear 
conception of the full possibilities of the papacy, the man 
whose genius and soaring aspirations forecast both Inno- 
cent III and the Vatican Council of 1870, Gregory VII, 

1 Cf. Geroch of Reichersperg, Expos. in Psalm Ixtv* 

2 Jacob Almain, of Pans, and Peter Dubois, also held it illegal. John 
Quidort, of Paris (1306) took a similar position. S chard, Syntagma 
variorum autorum de jurisdictione imperially etc. (Basle, 1566, 1609), 
p 208 et seq., publishes extracts from many medieval writers. Cf. 
also, Dollmger, op. cit , 105. 

8 Wyclif : ' ' Certum videttir ex chronicis quod non a Chnsto sed a 
Caesare Constantino Romanus episcopus accepit vel usurpavit potesta- 
tem." Wilkms, Concil. in , 344. So also the Waldenses. " Nam 
error Waldensium fuit, successonbus apostolorum, scilicet papae et 
praelatis ecclesiasticis, dominium in temporalibus repugnare, nee eis 
licere habere divitias temporales Unde ecclesiam Dei, et successor es 
apostolorum et veros praelatos ecclesiae Dei, durasse dicunt tantum 
usque ad Sylvestrum papam, a quo donatione facta ecclesiae per Con- 
stantinum imperatorem, dicunt mcepisse Romanam ecclesiam, quae 
modo secundum ipsos non est Dei ecclesia." John of Paris (c. 1322) 
in Schard, op. cit., p. 113. 


so far as we know made no use whatever of the sup- 
posed deed of Constantine. 

Moreover, all these theories of canon law had less in- 
fluence upon the actual course of events and growth of 
institutions than is often supposed. Claims might be 
supported by appeal to precedents and documents, but 
these were seldom their real source. They sprang rather 
out of aggressive ambition, and usually met that measure 
of success which their promoters had material or moral 
power to enforce. Claims realized embodied themselves 
in canon law and political theory. Here, as usual, theory 
generally followed after fact and practical program. 
The Protestant reformers and subsequent Protestant 
writers, holding the papacy to be a usurpation, exagger- 
ated the importance of extreme papal claims. When 
they attacked it on moral grounds they greatly over- 
stated the role of forged documents in attaining the ful- 
filment of these claims. 

"Historical research does not support those who say 
that the dignity of the papacy was only acquired in the 
Middle Ages by violent usurpations, bold plundering 
and forged deeds. Such have not been wanting, indeed, 
but they have never been determinative nor decisive. 
The tree was of such sturdy and purposeful growth that 
we can say that even without forged deeds, bold usurpa- 
tion, etc., its development would scarcely have been dif- 
ferent. Here, as usual, the actual development of internal 
control and power over others came first, and then 
followed theories, legal maxims, occasionally also forger- 
ies, in order to give existing power a biblical and histor- 
ical foundation. These theories then, later, redounded 
to the advantage of the existing power, but they did not 
found that power/' 1 

1 A. Harnack, in a lecture delivered in the Aula of Berlin University 


Aside from the manner of its origin and from its influ- 
ence in advancing the desires of the papacy, the significance 
of the Donation of Constantine lies chiefly in the illustra- 
tion it affords of the contrast between the church of the 
eighth and ninth century and that of the fourth and fifth. 
In the earlier days Christian imagination created an im- 
age of a pious emperor converted by miracle from pagan- 
ism and doing everything for the glory of God. In the 
later time, this was not enough. There must be suprem- 
acy for the ecclesiastical organization, there must be 
lands, government, and an imperial crown to dispose of 
for the bishop of Rome. This had become by the eighth 
century one of the aspirations of medieval Christianity. 
"The tendency of the whole age, as expressed in the 
forgery, ran toward wedding the spiritual power to 
worldly advantages, rights, and honors." J 

in 1911, and published in his "Aus Wissenschaft und Leben" (1911), 
vol. i, p 214. The same view is held by Taylor, Medieval Mind, ii, 

1 Hartmann, Geschichte Italians im M^ttelalter t Bd. ii, Hfte. ii 
(Gotha, 1903), p. 225 



I. Stages of Criticism 

THE work of historical criticism in showing up the 
Donation of Constantine is one of the most interesting 
chapters in the intellectual development of Europe. In 
mere bulk it looms very large, larger even than the im- 
portance of the document itself would seem to warrant; 
many books, and short general discussions without end. 
The intellectual class in Europe as well as the unedu- 
cated, passed through a long stage of uncritical accept- 
ance of it. Europe, as a whole, held to it in the face 
of the sharp, though limited and ineffectual, criticism 
it received in the twelfth century. This criticism was 
renewed and enlarged in the fourteenth century. But it 
was only the attack made upon it in the renaissance of 
the fifteenth century, culminating in Valla's work, that 
definitely exposed the forgery. The Protestant contro- 
versy concerning it, and the modern scientific, historical 
criticism of the last fifty years, make up the last chapters 
in its study. 

2. Criticism of the "Donation " previous to the Fifteenth 



The general acceptance of the document by the Middle 
Ages, in most cases without question of its genuineness, 
illustrates as much as any one thing could, the relative 
lack of the historical, scientific spirit in that stage of 
European thought. Consider what the Germans call the 
184 [184 


shrieking inconsistencies of the whole forgery; Con- 
stantine giving the Roman see primacy over that of 
Constantinople, before that city was founded, even ac- 
cording to the account in the Sylvester Legend itself, 
the application of such terms as satraps to Roman 
officials, the purported transfer of the government of 
Italy to the pope in the face of the actual continuation 
of imperial rule without any reference to papal authority 
and without any records of such a change. Consider 
also that the Middle Ages all the time possessed, in 
Jerome, the Historia Tripartita, and elsewhere, ma- 
terial for refuting the forgery and the whole story of 
Constantine's conversion through cure of leprosy, and 
for getting at the approximate facts about Constantine 
and Sylvester. Surely we have here an illustration of 
the fact that truth does not always prevail. Its preva- 
lence, even in the long run of centuries, depends on 
whether men really seek for it, and on what training and 
facilities they have in ascertaining it and its traces. In 
the absence of sound historical criticism, in the face of a 
strong tendency to harmonize inconsistencies, historical 
truth gives way in a single generation to wild and absurd 

But the so-called Middle Ages were not altogether 
uncritical. Our first notice of an attack comes in a 
document whose genuineness is open to serious doubt. 
If we may believe this, Otto III, at the end of the twelfth 
century, in a grant to Sylvester II, stigmatized the Do- 
nation of Constantine as a fiction/ But the twelfth 

r Haec sunt enim comtnenta ab illi ipsis inventa, quibus Joanness 
diaconus, cognomento digitorum mutius (mutilus) praeceptum aureis 
litteris scripsit, sub titulo magni Constantim longa mendacii tempora 
finxit. * * * " Spretis ergo commeuticiis praeceptis et imaginarii 
scriptis, ex nostra liberalitate sancto Petro donamus quae nostra sunt, 
non sibi quae sua sunt veluti nostra conferimus." ( Baromus Ann. 1191* 
No. 57). 


century brought on a fire of criticism. In the pontifi- 
cate of Paschal II, in 1104 or 1105, the Donation was 
used as authority by some Roman nobles for their pos- 
session, under the papacy, of a certain castle. Their 
opponents, the monks of a Sabine Benedictine monastery, 
Farfa, contested that at most the document could give 
only spiritual power, that the pope had no earthly author- 
ity such as was claimed, and that if Constantine had 
really made any such grant of land the popes would not 
afterwards have sought any land for buildings, or con- 
firmation of the emperor's name, as they did. 1 

Some fifty years later Wetzel, of the party of Arnold 
of Brescia, discredited the whole legend of Sylvester and 
the Donation. The Arnoldists were naturally led by 
their peculiar views of the papacy to level their guns 
against this buttress of its temporal power. Wetzel's 
contention was that Constantine was already a Christian 
before he met Sylvester. In support of this he cited the 
Historia Tripartite!, as well as an apocryphal document, 
which he found in the pseudo-Isidore and in Gratian, in 
which Miltiades or Melchiades, the predecessor of Syl- 
vester, refers to Constantine's great munificence to the 
Roman Church. 2 Looking to Emperor Frederic I for 
cooperation against the political power of the pope, 
Wetzel wrote (1152) that the lying and heretical fable 
was so thoroughly exposed that scholars could not de- 
fend it before the uneducated, and that the pope and 

1 Cf. Dollmger, op. cit., p. 94; Mancim, Lorenzo Valla, pp. 145, 146 
For this monastery, cf. Kehr, Regesta Poniificum Romanorum Italia 
Pontificia, vol ii, Latmm, pp 57-69. Cf also Histonae Farfens* m 
Pertz, M. G. H. xin, 571 ; the Registrum of Farfa published by J. 
Georgi and U. Balzani ; and Gregonus Catmensis in Scriptores Rerum 
Italicarum, vol. ii, part ii, p. 637. 

2 Printed in Migne, P. L , viii, col. 566 et seq. 


cardinals hardly showed themselves for shame. 1 Un- 
fortunately for the Arnoldists, however, the emperor had 
as little use for them as did the pope. Wetzel failed to 
produce any effect upon him, and in the overthrow of 
the Arnoldists, their arguments, also, for all practical 
purposes, fell to the ground/ 

Echoes of this and other attacks, however, continued 
to reverberate through Europe. Gottfried of Bamberg 
in his Pantheon, dedicated to Urban III (in 1186) treats 
of the matter in the form of a debate between a papist 
who defends the Donation on the ground that God would 
not permit errors on such weighty points, and an im- 
perialist who cited the continuance of imperial rule and 
the division of the whole empire between Constantine's 
sons. Leopold of Bebenburg shortly after made the 
same point as this hypothetical Ghibelline. 3 But neither 
Gottfried or Leopold gave his own conclusion. 

Marsiglio of Padua, early in the fourteenth century, is 
also not quite clear about the matter. He speaks of the 
document as though he had no faith in it, but welcomes 
it as proving that the pope's worldly pomp and claims of 
universal power came not from Christ, but from the em- 
peror. For this last proposition he cites no less author- 
ity than St. Bernard who declared that the popes in 
their worldly pomp were successors of Constantine, not 
of St. Peter. 4 Marsiglo's attitude was not an uncommon 

1 Martene and Durand, Amplissima collecho veterum scriptorum, ii 
(1724), 556, epist. 384. 

3 Cy. Dollinger, op cit*, pp. 94-95. He is inclined elsewhere to place 
the historical criticism of the Donation in the twelfth century on a 
higher level than that of the fifteenth. 

8 Schard, op, cit,, p. 391. 

^Defensor pads, Dictio II., cap. ii. Reprinted in Schard, op. cit. 
Marsigho's "Tractatus de translatione impeni," also touches upon 
Constantine's removal to the East and his supposed grant to the Pope. 
Cf* extract in Schard, op. /., pp. 154-156. 


one in his time, he merely gave it the increased weight 
of his authority. Thereafter, he seems to have been a 
model whom other writers copied, sometimes almost 
verbally in their statement of the case. l 

The contest in France against papal control kept the 
question from entirely dying out for nearly a hundred 
years longer. It remained for the time of the Renais- 
sance, however, to effectively establish the fact that the 
Donation was a forgery unworthy of any credence. 
Early writers had the acumen to arrive at or near this 
conclusion, but not until the middle of the fifteenth cen- 
tury was the equipment of historical critics and the state 
of public opinion such as to drive in and fasten down 
this achievement of awakening thought. 

3. The Contest Against the Papacy in the Fifteenth Cen- 
tury. Cusanus' Criticism of the "Donation" 
For more than a hundred years, that is, during the 
so-called Babylonian Captivity of the papacy, and the era 
of reforming councils, the papacy had been under fire. 
The rising sentiment of nationality, especially in north- 
ern Europe, had been seeking intermittently to curb the 
financial and the political ambitions of the Roman See* 
Reformers had been seeking for some way of ending and 
of preventing scandals in the church due to the confusion 
into which the Roman See had fallen. They had studied 
the history of the church, they had examined, in ancient 
authors, the historical grounds upon which the claims of 
the papacy rested. They had come to the council of Con- 
stance, not only with the purpose of ending the Great 
Schism, but with ideas about the reorganization of 
ecclesiastical government and revising the relations of 

*Cf. Radulphus (Pandulfus, or Landulph) de Columna, in his "de 
translations imperil," dated by Schard, 1324 A. D., and printed by 
him, op. dt. t p. 161. 


church and state. The former purpose had been accom- 
plished at Constance, but the realization of the latter, 
though to some extent accepted in principle there, had 
been postponed. 

The Council of Basle, assembled in 1431, was the 
agency through which the discontented element sought 
to effect the desired changes and reorganization. A 
strong and able group there contended vigorously for 
a system of conciliar government for the church, instead 
of papal absolutism. When the pope, Eugenius IV, 
ordered the dissolution of the council, the latter bore 
itself resolutely., reasserted the principles of Constance, 
and continued its work. 

Among the leaders in the championship of the council 
was Nicholas of Cues, better known as Nicholas of 
Cusa, or Cusanus (1401-1461), deacon of St. Florinus of 
Coblenz. Educated in the school of the Brethren of the 
Common Life at Deventer, and later at the University of 
Padua, he was both a pious churchman and one of the 
greatest, if not the greatest, ecclesiastical scholar of his 
generation. He wrote (1433) * or t* 16 direction of the 
council, and in justification of its platform, a work which 
he called "De concordantia catholica" and which pre- 
sented "the ideal of the reforming party, a united Church 
reformed in soul and body, in priesthood and laity, by 
the action of a Council which should represent on earth 
the eternal unity of Heaven." 1 

Cusanus later left the Council of Basle, as Cardinal 
Cesarini and others did, discouraged at the outcome of 
events and at the extremes to which the council went, 

1 M. Creighton, A ffistory of the Papacy during the Period of the 
Reformation, vol. it (1882), p. 232. For an appreciation of Nicholas 
of Cusa, cf. Janssen , History of the German People at the Close of the 
Middle Ages, Eng. trans. (London, 1908) i, 2-5. 


and " labored to restore the Papal power which once he 
had striven to upset/' * He became one of the most ef- 
fective representatives of Eugenius in the restoration of 
papal authority and influence. At the Diet of Mainz, 
in 1439, he advised that only part of the Basle decrees be 
accepted again in 1441, and ably championed the cause 
of the pope against that of the council. 2 He retained, 
however, at least many of his liberal ideas, and later gave 
expression to them in his remarkable work, " De pace 
sen Concordantia Fidei (1453), a most notable appeal 
for religious liberty. 3 

Among the foundations of papal power and claims 
which Cusanus examined in his '* De concordantia catho- 
lica" was the Donation of Constantine. His work was 
used as a sort of text-book by the council : this section 
of it was presented, November 7, 1433, a * the fourteenth 
session. It fully maintains the high standard of the rest 
of the work, and all things considered, is probably the 
most notable treatment ever given the "Donation." 4 
Valla's treatise is longer, more rhetorical, and much 
better known ; but Valla in all probability had this work 
to guide him. 

He called attention to the absence of any reference to 
the transaction or the document in early writings, which 
he said he had searched thoroughly with this in mind. 
Certain histories tell of Constantine being baptized by 
Sylvester, and of presents given the Church by the for- 
mer, but none speak of any transfer of temporal power. 

*M. Creighton, op. at,, p. 232. 

* For a full account of the Council of Basle and a judicious statement 
of Cusanus' share in it, cf* Creighton, op. cit., vol. n, chaps iv-x. 

*Cf. G. L. Burr: "Anent the Middle Ages/' in American His- 
torical Review^ xvni, 710-713. 

*For text of Cusanus' discussion, cf. infra, pp. 237-241. 


That this last resided in the emperor was recognized by 
the popes after Sylvester. It was Pippin, and later 
Charlemagne, who conferred Italian states upon the 
papacy. Cusa cites passages in papal correspondence 
showing that imperial jurisdiction prevailed in Italy long 
after this grant to the pope was supposed to have been 
made. He makes a critical comparison of the legends 
of the Roman baptism with Jerome's statements and his- 
torical facts* He shows that the Donation was not in 
the original collection of canon laws made by Gratian, 
but was added later under "Palea." His conclusion is 
that the Donation is a more than doubtful argument for 
papal power, that it is really worse than nothing. 

4. Valla's Treatise 

Lorenzo Valla, however, made the most decisive on- 
slaught upon the Donation, and the most famous. 1 
Nicholas of Cusa had written about it as one of many 
questions, in the tone of scholarly investigation. Valla 
made an impassioned oratorical denunciation which sin- 
gled it out as a crime against European civilization. The 
fame of the author, the power of his appeal, and ensuing 
contests against the papacy combined to connect the ex- 
posure of the forgery almost entirely with the latter 
name. * 

Valla embodied to a superlative degree most of the 
merits, and some of the faults, of the scholarship of the 
Renaissance. To find his closest analogy one must study 
the Italian condottieri, highly skilled, keen, reckless sol- 
diers of fortune. He was an intellectual condottiere, well 

J The best life of Valla is in Italian, G. Mancini; Vita di Lorenzo 
Valla,) Firenze 1891. A good account, with many of Valla's letters, is 
that of Barozzi e Sabbadim, Studi sul Panormita e sul Valla, publica- 
zioni del R. institute di studi superior! practici e di perfezionamento in 
Firenze, sezione di filosofia e filologia (1891), pp. 49-265. 


upon the death of Giovanna II in 1435, on the ground of 
his having been adopted heir by her, as well as of the 
older Aragonese pretensions. Pope Eugenius, however, 
claimed the kingdom of Naples as a papal fief and op- 
posed Alfonso. The latter was captured by the victor- 
ious fleet of the Genoese, who were looking after their 
commercial interests, off the island of Ponza, and held 
prisoner for a while by Filippo Maria Visconti, at Milan, 
which then controlled Genoa, but he succeeded in form- 
ing an alliance with Filippo Maria and thus finally got 
control in Naples. The pope, however, headed a league 
embracing Florence, Venice and Genoa (after the revolt 
from Milan) and continued the fight against Alfonso. 
It was not until 1442 that the latter was able to firmly 
establish himself at Naples. The bitterness of his party 
against Eugenius was naturally great, and was increased 
by the pope's entrusting his interests and the conduct of 
the war to the notoriously cruel Cardinal Vitteleschi. 
Alfonso fought the pope, not only with an army, but 
with literary forces as well. He strongly supported the 
faction hostile to the papacy at Basle, and sought in 
general to undermine the moral and legal foundation of 
the papal power. For this latter purpose his secretary, 
Valla, was an incomparable agent. He contributed to 
his patron's warfare a bitter arraignment of the temporal 
power of the papacy, cleverly taking as his text the forg- 
ery of the Donation of Constantine. 1 

Writers who have approached this work through a 
study of Valla, or from a Protestant point of view, have 

1 For the situation in Italian politics which called forth Valla's treatise, 
cf. Creighton, op. c^t., h, 170-172, 228; Barrozi, in Barozzi e. Sabbadini, 
op. at.. 222-265; Mancini, V^ta d^ Lorenzo Valla, 137-145; Gregoro- 
vius, Rome in the Middle Ages (Eng. trans, from the fourth German 
ed.), vol. vii, pp. 62-64, 84-85. 


generally given it extravagant praise/ while many, im- 
patient of its rhetorical form, or reading only the ora- 
torical opening, have seen little of value in it. 2 In truth 
the work is not as original as has often been assumed. 
Valla was a friend and admirer of Nicholas of Cusa, 3 and 
there is reason for thinking that much of his historical 
criticism is based on Nicholas' earlier work. The crit- 
icism of the language and vocabulary of the Constitutum 
Constantini, however, which is a considerable part of the 
treatise, must have been largely a product of Valla's own 
literary studies. Errors such as the use of the apocry- 
phal letter of Melchiades to overthrow the apocryphal 
Donation, the belief drawn through secondary sources 
from Eusebius' Church History that Constantine was 
always a Christian, failure to use Eusebius' Life of Con- 
stantine or even Jerome's statement of the Nicomedian 
baptism, were only to be expected of one writing in the 
fifteenth century. But Valla used old Roman coins 
which he had in his own possession as historical evi- 
dence, and his reasoning was usually sound and his 
method of approach skilfully chosen. His work is not 
unworthy to stand as one of the landmarks in the rise 
of historical criticism. 

The point of Valla's treatise is that the Donation is a 
forgery, and that the temporal power of the pope is in 
any case bad and should be abolished. He makes no 
attempt to ascertain the date or circumstances of the 

1 E g. Strauss, Ulnch von Ifutten, (1877) p. 201; Gieseler, Text-book 
of Church History (New York, 1863), iri, p. 473, n. 2; Wolff, Lorenzo 
Valla, pp. 60, 79; Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders (2nd ed.), vn, 154; 
Gregorovius, Rome in the Middle Ages (3rd ed.), vn, pp. 535, 571-573- 

*E.g. Dollinger, ed T?Tizfoich t Papstfabeln, p. 118; Nisard, op.cit., 
i, p. 279 et passim 

8 Cf. letters in Barozzi e Sabbadini, op czt., pp. 115. i?8. 


forgery, as indeed no one does for a hundred and fifty 
years after him. His proof that the Donation was a for- 
gery is varied both in form and in value. He begins 
with a rather clever discussion of the improbability of 
the whole thing, showing how Constantine could not 
have made the donation and how, if it had been made, 
Sylvester would have refused it in a speech expatiating 
on the incompatibility of the temporal power with 
the spiritual. He finds no trace of any transfer or 
change of officials; imperial rule continued in the west 
as before the supposed grant. The best historians, 
Eusebius and Rufinus, say that Constantine was a 
Christian before Sylvester's pontificate, and a letter of 
Melchiades x clearly proves it. Moreover, the Donation 
is not in the body of canon law, it was added under 
the Palea. The whole pseudo-Gelasian literature and 
the Vita (or Gesta) Sylvestri is discredited. Valla used 
effectively the argument from the barbarous and in- 
correct language of the document and inconsistencies 
in its account of events. Not having adequate Roman 
calendars or Fasti he failed to detect the error in 
dating. He accepted the Eusebian authorship of the 
Vita Sylvestri, but took this as discrediting it, because 
Greeks were proverbial liars; the Vita therefore is not 
apocryphal, but lying ! As for confirmation and accept- 
ance of the Donation as genuine by the rulers of the 
Holy Empire, Valla held these emperors to be creatures 
of the papacy. He was even less imperialist than papist. 
He ends as he began, with an attack upon the whole 
system of papal government in civil affairs. 

This treatise, written before printing was developed, 
did not at first receive a wide circulation. Valla himself 

1 Which, however, is a palpable forgery 


esteemed it as one of his best and greatest works and 
circulated it privately among his friends. 1 Poggio, how- 
ever, in his bitter invectives against Valla, did not men- 
tion this treatise, and apparently did not know of it. In 
a defence of himself to Eugenius IV, made in the effort 
to obtain a position at Rome, Valla excused himself from 
many damaging charges of heresy, but said nothing 
about the attack on the Donation, probably because it 
had not become well enough known to occasion contro- 
versy and call for defence. 2 He had had occasion to re- 
fer to it, though, in writing to influential friends at 
Rome, and to apologize for it. He protested his full 
devotion to the Holy See and attributed this indiscre- 
tion to bad advice as well as to his regrettable passion 
for controversy and fame. 3 In asking, however, in 1443, 
for the friendly influence of Cardinal Ludovico Scarampo 
in getting him back to Rome, he justified his work as 
solely an attempt to ascertain and establish the truth. 4 

l . g. letter to Guarino, from Naples, Nov., 1443: * * * mittam ego 
tibi vicissimmeamorationem, quaeetiam ipsa prope tota in contentione 
versatur: " de falso credita et ementita donatione Constantini." Dices: 
"pacisci mecum vis." Minimi: "sed nisi orationem meam non 
videris, mitlendam esse non puto tibi. Rescnbes igitur an Plmiana 
Laurentianaque oratio in manus tuas venerit. Si utroque, tu Phmanam 
ad me mittes; si neutra, ego ad te meam Laurentianam mittam; si 
Laurentiana, neuter ad alterium ahquam orationem mittet." In 
Barozzi e Sabbadmi, op. cit , p 93 

Valla also sent a copy to Aurispa, writing * * qua nihil magis oratorium 
scripsi." In ' ' Epistolae mund% procerum " falso referred to as Epis- 
tolae prtncipum} , Venice, 1574, p. 361, cf. also pp. 375, 346. 

In 1443 he also wrote to Cardinal Ludovico Scarampo, in the letter 
quoted below, " Opus meum [de Constant mi donatione] conditum edi- 
tumque est, quod emendare aut suppnmere nee possem si deberem, nee 
deberem si possem/' Barrozzi e Sabbadini, op, at., p. 96. 

* Opera, p. 795. 

3 Cf letter to Landnana, c. 1445, cited by Gregorovius, Rome in the 
Middle Ages, vii, p. 574, and Nisard, op. c^t., i, p 279. 

*" At cur ' de Constantim donatione ' cornposui? Hoc est quod pur- 


His mingled protestations of innocence and veiled 
hints that more might be said than he had said in his 
treatise, produced no results during the pontificate of 
Eugenms IV. Nicholas V, however, finally did appoint 
him to an apostolic secretaryship in 1448 and gave him 
many marks of favor, especially in connection with his 
translations of Greek authors. How much the pope was 
influenced in this by Valla's urgency, by the policy of 
silencing an enemy by taking him into the papal camp, 
or by genuine interest in Valla's scholarly work, it is 
impossible to tell. I am inclined, however, to think that 
the last was the main reason for Nicholas' action. 

Valla's treatise, however, did not remain without in- 

gare habeam, tit quod nonnulh obtrectent tmhi et quasi cnmen mtendant. 
Id ego tanttim abest ut mahvolentia fecenm, ul summopere optassem 
sub aho pontifice necesse mihi fuisse id facere, non sub Eugenio [the 
reigning pope], Neque vero attinet hoc tempore hbelli mei causam 
defendere nisi Gamahelis verbis, 'Si est ex homimbus consilium hoc 
aut opus, dissolvetur; sin autemexdeo, non potentis dissolvere.' Opus 
meum conditum editumque est; quod emendare aut suppnmere nee 
possem si deberem, nee deberem si possem. Ipsa rei ventas se tuebi- 
tur aut ipsa falsitas se coarguet Alii de illo judices arbitnque sunt, 
non ego Si male locutus sum, testimonium perhibebunt de malo; sin 
bene, non caedent me nervisaequi judices. Sed opus illud m sua quaeso 
causa quiescere sinamus. Hoc tantum consideres vehm,non odiopapae 
adductum, sed ventatis sed rehgionis sed cujusdam glonae et famae 
gratia motum, ut quod nemo sciret id egoscisse solus viderer. Multum 
etiam nocere potuissem, si aheno ammo fuissem in rebus quae mentem 
ammumque magis sollicitant. Nan quod feci, hoc non modo ad pudorem 
praesentium, sed mortuorum etiam ac futurorum perlmet, qui enim 
nemini parcit, nullum laedit. Verum cum non minus prodesse in pos- 
terum possim quam uno libello offendt, per ego tesupenorum temporum 
meam in summum pontificem benivolentiam pietatemque obsecro id, 
quod cum per se facile, turn verotuaevirtutifacillimum, non beneficium 
non munis non gratiam non veniam, sed ut simihs tibi sis, ut quod 
semper fecisti facias, ne ahter ac sentis de animo ergo me tuo summique 
pontificis rescnbas, etiamsi me tibi odio esse nee licere mihi in patnam 
redire dicas." Barozzi e Sabbadim, op c^t , pp. 95-96. 
For a letter to Cardinal Gerardo in a similar strain cf ^b^d. , p 104 


fluence. It probably added to Porcaro's anti-papal con- 
victions and affected also the character of the teaching 
of Pomponius Laetus. 1 Valla's name more than that of 
any other man is associated by writers of his century, as 
well as by those of later times, with the refutation of the 
Donation. Hutten some seventy years later found it 
being read in Italy and got at least two copies of it 
there.' Others, however, wrote upon the subject, some 
probably independently of Valla. 3 

5. Other Critics in the Time of the Renaissance 

Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini in a treatise begun by him 
while on the imperialist side, some thirteen years after 
Valla's (Y. ., c. 1453) and revised, but left incomplete 
several months before he became Pope Pius II, describes 
an imaginary dialogue in which St. Bernard of Siena, 
Peter of Nocete and himself figure, and Valla is men- 
tioned. 4 In this dialogue there occurs as complete a 
refutation of the Donation of Constantme as Valla had 
given, and at some points a more valid line of attack. 
The baptism of Constantine at Nicomedia, when an old 
man, is here affirmed correctly as excluding the whole 
story of the Roman baptism; which is quite an improve- 
ment upon Valla. 

Reginald Pecock, bishop of St. Asaph, and later of 

1 Cf. Pastor, History of the Popes, n, p. 221, iv, 42; Gregorovius, op. 
c^t., vii, pp. 131, 575; Creighton, op. c%t , h, 308-311 et passim. 

1 Cf. infra, p. 203 et seq. 

3 It is interesting to note, however, that Nicholas Tudeschi, esteemed 
the greatest canon lawyer of Valla's time, wrote, " whoever denies the 
Donation of Constantine is to be suspected of heresy." ConsiL 84, n. 
2 cap. "per venerabilem." 

*Pius li, Orattones, i, 25; iii, 85-100; Piccolomini, Opera Inedita, 
^.2&$etseq.; Mansi, Conc^liorum Collectio, xxx, 1203; cf* Mancini, 
op. &t., pp. 148-149. 


Chichester, discussed the "Donation" in his famous 
book The Represser of over much Blaming of the 
Clergy? written about nine years after Valla's treatise, 
but probably independently of it. Pecock's criticism 
shows remarkable accuracy in investigation and is based 
almost entirely upon genuine historical sources. He, 
also, accepts the baptism at Nicomedia, as did Aeneas 
Sylvius, as the only historical one , criticises the whole 
Sylvester legend; marks the absence of early references 
to the Donation ; cites requests of early popes from the 
emperors, which show that the former, long after Syl- 
vester, recognized the latter as their temporal sover- 
eigns. He shows the actual course of events in the 
growth of the temporal power through the donations of 
Pippin, Charlemagne, Louis the Pious, and Countess 
Mathilda. His reasoning throughout is sound and con- 

A scholar now little known, described as the Reverend 
Father in God, Hieronymus Paulus Cathalanus, Canoni- 
cus of Barcelona, LL. D., and a secretary of Alexander 
VI, has left a note combining the proofs of Valla and 
Aeneas Sylvius, and referring to other similar writings. 2 
It probably represents the view of the Donation gen- 
erally held among the best scholars of the papal court at 
the end of the century. 3 

Printed in the Rolls Series (JRerum bntanmcawm mediiaem scrip- 
tores, no. 19), London, 1860, xix, xx, 350-366, and assigned by Whar- 
ton in Appendix, 102, to the year 1449. For a recent account of Pecock 
see article in The English Historical Review, xxvi (1911), pp. 448-468, 
by E. M. Blackie. 

Printed in the Reformation pamphlet, " De donatione Constantini 
quid ven habeat * * * ut in versa pagella videbis." 

8 Guicciardim (1483-1540) Istoria d' Italia (1775 ed.), vol. i, pp. 385- 
35, shows by his annihilation of the Donation, that it found no cre- 
dence among men of letters in his circle. 


Some who were acquainted with the general trend of 
the argument did not give it their complete assent. The 
celebrated theologian and casuist Antoninus, archbishop 
of Florence ( 1446-1459) , x says that the Donation was 
not in the oldest manuscripts of canon law, and while 
accepted by theologians and canon-lawyers, is rejected 
by secular lawyers. For himself he holds it as at most a 
restitution by the emperor of power and property which 
belonged to the pope originally by divine right. 

There was some attempt to defend the Donation as 
genuine. Cortesi brought forth an Antivalla (about 
1464) which consisted chiefly of a slanderous account of 
Valla and of the circumstances under which he wrote, 
and of the condemnation he received. It still remains in 
manuscript. 2 There is also a report of an answer in 1458 
to a trouble-making Hussite in Strassburg who insisted 
too vigorously that the Donation was a forgery ; he was 
burned at the stake. 3 An equally convincing proof of 
the genuineness of the Donation was made later at 
Rome in the pontificate of Julius II, when one Bar- 
tholemeus Picernus (or Pincernus) produced a copy of 
it purporting to be a Latin translation of a Greek 

The day of the Donation, however, was past. By the 
time of Alexander VI it had, in many quarters, become 
a joke. A story runs that when that pope asked for a 
copy of the grant on the basis of which Venice claimed 
control of the Adriatic, the Venetian Girolamo Donato 

1 In his ** Chronicon partibus tribus distincta ab initio mundi ad 
mccchx," (Venice, 1474-9), printed, also, in "De donatione Constan- 
tini quid veri habeat," etc. 

S C/. Mancmi, op. cit., pp. 160-162. Another fifteenth-century refu- 
tation was by Giovanni Antonio di Sangiorgio, Cardinal Allesandrino, 
no longer extant. 

5 Cited by Friednch, in his ed. of Dollinger, Papstfadeln, p. 118. 


replied that he would find it written on the back of the 
Donation of Constantine. 1 Ariosto's reference is akin 
to this : 

Then to a hill of vary'd flowers they went 
That sweet before, now yields a fetid scent; 
This (let me dare to speak) that present showed, 
Which on Sylvester Constantine bestowed. 2 

By the beginning of the sixteenth century the Dona- 
tion was thus thoroughly discredited. Ecclesiastical as 
well as secular scholarship generally recognized that it 
was a gross forgery. Though we have seen that many 
writers contributed to this result, the refutation of the 
forgery seems to have been generally attributed to Valla. 
While not as yet printed, his treatise had become known 
to many in the latter half of the fifteenth century, and 
many manuscript copies of it seem to have been in ex- 
istence. 3 The treatise was referred to in at least one 
scholastic disputation in Germany, at Tubingen, as early 
as iso6. 4 The literary merits of the work, the incisive- 
ness and cleverness of its arraignment of the temporal 
power of the papacy, as well as the fact that it was by 
far the most pretentious expose of the Donation, doubt- 
less fostered the tendency to assign the whole merit of 
the critical achievement to it, a tendency which still 
continues among modern writers. 5 

l Cf. Mancini; op. cit., p. 159. 

2 Orlando furioso, bk. xxxiv, v 80, Hoole's trans., xxxiv, 1. 622 et seq. 
" Di vari fiore ad un grand monte passa, 
Chi ebbe gia buono odore, or piazza forte; 
Questo era il dono (se pero dir lece) 
Che Constantino al buon Silvestro fece " 

3 Hutten ran across at least two in Italy, cf. ^nfra^ p. 203 et seg* 

*Cf. extract in Schard, opus cit., pp. 426-434. 

6 C/. G. B. Adams, fastory of Cimlizahon during the Middle Ages, 
P. 378. 



I. Hutten's Publication of f^alla's Treatise 

THE Protestant Revolution gave a new turn to the 
discussion. After being discredited by men who, how- 
ever hostile they might be to the political pretensions of 
the papacy, had no thought of rebellion against the 
Church, the "Donation" was taken up by German revo- 
lutionists as proof of the fraud and deceit by which the 
papacy had obtained its unrighteous power. Ulrich von 
Hutten started the attack by the secret publication in 
Germany, in 1517, of Valla's treatise, which up to that 
time had remained in manuscript. He affixed to it, with 
his characteristic effrontery, a dedicatory letter to Leo 
X, full of pretended kindness toward that pope. Hutten 
had run across the book in Italy and was quick to see 
what an effective weapon it was. 1 After the Protest- 

1 See the following interesting letter, Hutten' s Opera, ed. Booking, 
i, p 142. 

"Joannes Cochlaeus Bihbaldo Pirckheimero Bononiae (Bologna), 
5 Jul, 1517. 

***** abiit ad vos ante octidtmm noster Huttenus, homo ingemi 
magis actiti et acris quam placida et quieti. Dedi ei litteras, quanquam 
visus fuerat a nobis nonnihil abalienatus. Amo equidem hominis in- 
genium, ferociam ejus non ita; longe certe facilius absentem quam 
praesentem (ita tecum loqui libet) amicum servabo. Pridie quam re- 
cederet apud me vidit Laurentii Vallae libellum contra Constantini do- 
nationem, quern ego ad modicum tempus videndum ab alio com- 
modatum acceperam, vtilt homo eum libellum in Germania rursus im- 
203] 203 


ant movement started, his edition was frequently re- 
printed* 1 

2. Luther s Attitude, Protestant Attack, Catholic Defense 

Hutten's publication fell into Luther's hands shortly 
after his debate with Eck at Leipsic and added fuel to 
the flame of his wrath. He wrote to Spalatin : 

"I have at hand Lorenzo Valla's proof (edited by 
Hutten) that the Donation of Constantine is a forgery. 
Good heavens ! what darkness and wickedness is at 
Rome! You wonder at the judgment of God that such 
unauthentic, crass, impudent lies not only lived, but pre- 
vailed for so many centuries, that they were incorporated 
in the canon law, and (that no degree of horror might 
be wanting) that they became as articles of faith. I am 
in such a passion that I scarcely doubt that the Pope is 

pressioni mandare; petit, ut hbelhis iste, quia correctior esset, trans- 
scriberetur; non potui ei id denegare; transscnptus est a Fndencho 
Herbipolensi; transmittetur ei post paucos dies; sed et foris habent ex- 
emplana. Credo equidem verissima esse quae scnpsit Laurentius; 
vereor tamen ne tuto edi queant, at Huttenus anathema non formidat, 
et indignum mihi videtur, ut veritas a ventatis gladio prohibeatur, facile 
igitur illius ausu in lucem Laurenln libertas, qua baud mferiorem 
Francus ille gerit, redibit. Scnbunt super commenticia ilia donatione 
commenta multa canonistae et theologiet cucullati; sed omnium ratiun- 
culas, jmmo captiunculas quisque cui non nihil sit cerebri, facile repel- 
leret. At ego contra canomstas loqui non debeo, ne tibi videar rursus 
ejus studii apostata; non certe id desero, quanquam magna cum displi- 
centia plurima lego, praesertim ea quae sunt in Sexto et Clementmis, 
ubi nulla verbositas pontificum avaritiae satisfacere potest." 

It will be noticed that Cochlaeus says Hutten wanted "eum hbellum 
in Germania nirsus impressioni mandare." This wculd seem to imply 
that it had already been printed in Italy. I have, however, been unable 
to obtain any trace of such an edition in any of the catalogues of incun- 
abula or elsewhere, and infer that the above is merely a loose use of 

^SiSC?), 1520, 1530, 1618, 1666, 1690, etc. Cf. Bocking, Hutteni 
Opera, i, 18-19. 


Antichrist expected by the world, so closely do their 
acts, lives, sayings and laws agree. But more of this 
when I see you. If you have not yet seen the book, I 
shall take care that you read it." 1 

This played no small part in the mental process by 
which Luther, naturally conservative and submissive to 
what he considered to be legitimate authority, came to 
look upon the papacy as a usurpation and illegitimate 
tyranny, and so passed on into open revolt. Thus, as 
the real Constantine had a large share in the develop- 
ment of the Catholic Church, the legendary Constantine 
contributed to the Protestant movement away from that 

The Protestant attack led to a renewed defence of the 
Donation ; indeed it probably prolonged that defence for 
generations after it would otherwise have been abandoned. 
Steuchus, librarian of the Vatican, was its ablest champion." 
He made a general defence of the temporal power of the 
papacy, smoothed over some of the inconsistencies of the 
document in question by doctoring the text, and argued 
for the baptism of Constantine by Sylvester. In this 
last he made the mistake of assuming that Constantine 
would not have presided at the Council of Nicea if he 
had not previously been baptized, but he was entirely 
right and successful in overthrowing the story of Con- 
stantine and Miltiades (Melchiades) upon which Valla 
had relied. 

1 Feb. 24, 1520. I have given the translation of Preserved Smith , 
Martin Luther, p 73. Luther wrote in a similar strain in his Address 
to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation of the same year. 

2 In his Contra Laurentiiwn de falsa donatione, 1545* 1547- 


3. Baronius 

Many dissertations and compilations J were published 
in the controversy in the sixteenth century. This phase 
of the matter, however, ended with Baronius, the greatest 
Catholic church historian of these controversial genera- 
tions. In his Annales Ecclesiastici (published 1588-1607) 
written in advocacy of the papacy and the Catholic 
Church, he took the position that the falsity of the Do- 
nation had been proven and, abandoning its defence, dis- 
cussed it as a forgery. 2 Some later Catholic writers 
attempted a defence, and occasionally, almost down to 
the present, some ill-informed, ill-advised enthusiast has 
come forward to use it as genuine, but in educated circles 
this became entirely out of the question after Baronius' 
great work appeared. This one negative result of his- 
torical criticism was thus, in spite of the disturbing influ- 
ence of the Protestant conflict, firmly established in the 
course of approximately one hundred and fifty years. 

The way seemed clear for a dispassionate scientific 
study of the origin of the forgery. But Baronius, who 
opened the way, also carried over into the later discussion 
the point of view of religious controversy. He was the 
first to bring into prominence, after the question of 
genuineness was settled, the question of the source and 
circumstances of the forgery itself He seems to have 
done it, however, purely as a means of removing re- 
sponsibility for the forgery from the papacy. It is inter- 

1 The most notable of the latter is that of Simon Schard referred to in 
an earlier chapter, Syntagma variortum autorum de impertah jwns- 
dictione et protestate ecclesiastzca, printed also under the title, Syntagma 
tractatium de ^mper^al^ jurisdiction r <?, authontate^ et praeemtnentta, 
ac potestate ecclesiastica, etc. Basil, 1566. This contained reprints of 
most of the earlier writings attacking the Donation. 

'Under the year 324, nos. 117-123. Cf. also A. D. 1191, no 51. 


esting, but natural, that the very historian whose won- 
derful erudition and research Protestants criticized for 
its lack of command of Greek, should assign the forgery 
to just that field about which he knew the least, namely, 
writers of the Greek Church. 1 Starting with his apolo- 
getic attitude on behalf of the papacy, and the existence 
of Greek texts of the Donation, he advanced the theory 
that Greeks had perpetrated the forgery and used it to 
establish the antiquity of the See of Constantinople. 2 
The popes innocently accepted it as genuine and so fell 
into the trap of using it. This position is crude and un- 
tenable, for aside from other historical impossibilities in- 
volved there are numerous indications that the Greek 
texts are merely translations from the Latin 3 But it 
represents one of the starting points of the modern sci- 
entific inquiry into the source of the Donation. It also 
forecast the survival of religious controversy in this 
historical question, for down to the present there per- 
sists the tendency on the part of many Catholic scholars 
to find some scapegoat (nowadays the French forgers of 
the ninth century usually play this role) , and on the part 
of many Protestants to attribute the Donation and its 
use altogether too much to continuous, designing 
knavery on the part of the papacy. 

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were 
occasional writings upon the Donation, but these fol- 
lowed the lines laid down earlier and are of no particular 

1 Loc. ciL 

2 He accepted the story of Sylvester and Constantine as historical (CA 
A. D. 324, nos. 43-49), including the Roman baptism, most of the 
material of the l'^ta or Gesta Sylvestri, and the actual grant of power 
and possession to Sylvester, but held that the Greeks had, on the basis, 
of these historical facts, forged the document of the Donation itself 

*Cf. Dollinger, op. cit., pp 74-78. 


4. Character of Modern Scientific Criticism of the 

The great ultramontane controversy of the nineteenth 
century, however, culminating at the time of the Vatican 
Council, brought again into prominence the medieval 
history of the papacy. The Donation of Constantine 
was made the subject of more prolonged and micro- 
scopic research than any other episode of similar im- 
portance in European history. A comparison of this 
series of investigation with earlier ones brings out clearly 
the vast improvement that had been made in the mean- 
time in historical work. A whole library of lexicons 
showing the history of the use of words as well as their 
varying meanings, vast compilations of sources of all 
sorts and in all languages, accurate and detailed accounts 
of the course of events, careful study and comparison of 
manuscripts, critical editions of texts, countless organs 
of publication through technical reviews and learned 
societies, in short, all those products of what has not 
inaptly been termed an " industrial revolution" in learned 
circles, has put at the disposal of scholars an equipment 
with which apparent impossibilities are constantly being 

Moreover, though the old confessional and apologetic 
attitude has not entirely disappeared, a new spirit is 
clearly visible in the best modern criticism, the spirit of 
scientific curiosity, the effort to ascertain and understand' 
facts, rather than to defend or to discredit existing 
institutions. Discussion of the Donation of Constan- 
tine now involves the task, beside which earlier efforts 
seem puerile, of discovering the process by which the 
story and the document came into being, and the identi- 
fication of the place, the time and even the author of the 
forgery. The unraveling of the legendary process out 


of which the story of Constantine's leprosy and Roman 
baptism developed and the significance of the whole 
group of legends about the emperor has been described 
above. 1 The forged document has also become recog- 
nized as a composite resultant of ideas and forces lying 
deep in the life of the Middle Ages, with a history ob- 
scure and difficult, but intensely interesting. The mate- 
rials for an understanding of this history are imbedded 
in scores and even hundreds of documents surviving 
from the eighth and ninth centuries, in peculiarities of 
style and vocabulary of various writers, and of various 
chancelleries, in political and ecclesiastical crises which 
might have spurred men on to the creation of false evi- 
dence. The problem has appealed strongly to scientific 
curiosity and has occupied the energy of many of the 
foremost European historians of the last two generations 
in Italy, France and especially Germany. It seems to 
have become, like the old scholastic problems, a field of 
exercise to sharpen the wits of scholars, deriving im- 
portance not from any practical bearing the solution 
may have, but from the light it throws upon the pro- 
cesses and possibilities of modern historical investiga- 
tion. 2 

5. Conclusions 

THIS work has not resulted in unanimity as to the 
place or exact time of the forgery. Differences in the 

l f. supra, pp. 153-172. 

2 For list of the more important writings see Bibliography. For short 
summaries see the excellent articles upon Constantme, Donation of, in 
the last edition of the Encycloped^a JBrttannica and the Catholic Cyclo- 
pedia. For the most important contributions to the discussion see the 
works of Dollinger, Grauert, Langen, Friednch, Brunner, Zeumer, 
Scheffer-Boichorst, Hartmann. The highwater mark was probably 
reached about the decade from 1880-1890; since then there has been a 
decline, at least in the volume of the discussion. 


latter extend over a hundred years, 750-850; and both 
Italy and France are advanced as the source of the 
document. 1 Substantial arguments are not wanting for 
these varying conclusions ; the decision, as yet must be 
one of probability and not of certainty. The following 
results, however, seem to me to best satisfy the require- 

The legend of Constantme's leprosy and cure and of 
his rich gifts to the Roman church had been current at 
Rome long before the eighth century. 2 This legend 
seems to have taken on new features from time to time, 
chiefly by way of assigning a greater place to the bishop 
of Rome, and of attributing greater concessions and 
grants to him at the hand of the emperor. 3 Pope Had- 
rian I (772-795) undoubtedly was familiar with the 
legend in a form which represented Constantine as giv- 
ing important privileges and grants to the pope and the 
Roman clergy, and endorsed it by his use of it. 4 

x The theory of a Greek origin was so completely refuted by Dol- 
linger, Papstfabeln, etc., p. 74 et seq., that it has been completely 

*The researches of Dollinger and Duchesne have thrown abundant 
light on this fact Cf. supra, p. 165 et seq. 

8 Friedrich has attempted to point out definite redactions of the legend 
in the sixth and seventh centuries, and has also divided the document 
of the Constitutum (ex Donation) of Constantine into two parts, the first 
dating from 638-641 (after 634, cf. op cit., p. 53) and the last from 752- 
757 (probably just before 754, cf. op. cit., p. no et. seq.}. He is not m 
my judgment successful in this latter effort, but the larger fact of devi- 
ations in the legend in the direction indicated is, I think, established. 

4 In letters to the eastern rulers, Constantine and Irene, 785 A. D., 
given in Mansi xii, 1056-1076, and to Charlemagne in 775, 776, 778, cf. 
Cod. Car., no Ix; Jaffa, Bibhotheca, iv, 197; Mansi, Concil. Coll., xii, 
819 The resemblances between phrases of these letters and texts of 
the Donation of Constantine is so close at times as to suggest that 
Hadrian used such a text himself. This has been maintained by many 
scholars, cf. e. g. Friednch, op. tit., pp 2-15, where some of the strik- 


The earliest known manuscript of the Constitutum is 
the one in Codex Parisiensis Lat. 2778, found in the Col- 
lectio Sancti Dionysii of the monastery of St. Denis in 
France. I The collection contains documents dating 
from the last years of the eighth century (though it may 
have been put together later), antedating the appearance 
of the pseudo-Isidorean collection by a generation or 
more. All the other early manuscripts including those 
of the pseudo-Isidorean Decretals, which brought the 
document into general prominence, have been found in 
France. French writers, also, were the first to refer to 
the Donation. This indicates that its earliest use was 
there and has led to the theory that the document was 
forged there. The language however so clearly indicates 
a Roman source, and historical circumstances point so 
strongly in the same direction, that the Prankish origin 
seems untenable. 

The most exhaustive and exact study of the language 
and use of terms in the Constitutum Constantini\i% been 
made by Scheff er-Boichorst. a He has shown a con- 
vincing resemblance in ideas, in style, and in vocabulary 
to the usage of the papal chancery of Stephen II 
(III) (752-757) and Paul I (757-767), and locates the 

ing passages are put in parallel columns . However, it seems only rea- 
sonable to suppose that Hadrian would have referred lo the document 
if he had had it before him m legal form. Other considerations also 
point to Hadrian's citing, not the legal document which we have in 
the Constitutum Constantim, but the legend in its literary form, prob- 
ably in some text which we do not now have, Hadrian's source is 
therefore uncertain, 

1 For description and discussion of manuscripts, see Zeumer, in Fest- 
gabe fur Rudolf von Gneist, pp. 39-47. For Zeumer's edition of the 
text of the Constitutum Constantini> cL ^nfra, pp. 228-237. 

a " Neue Forschungen uber die Konstantimsche Schenkung," in 
Mittheilungen d. Instituts fur osterr. Geschichtsforshung, x (1889), p. 
325 et seq.; xi (1890), p. 128 et seq. Also in his Gesammelle Schnften 
in the Historische Studien of E. Eberhng, vol. xlii. 


forgery in the time and in the chancery of the latter 
pope. He attributes it not only to the effort to exalt 
the authority and prerogatives of the Roman See, but 
more particularly to a desire to glorify Sylvester. There 
is justification for this on the further ground that Paul 
I was especially interested in Sylvester, having founded 
a monastery of his name in 761. The glorification of the 
saint by a forgery ascribing high place to him would not 
be an impossibility at that time. The argument from 
the document itself is so strongly in favor of an origin 
at Rome and about that time that the substance of the 
Donation must be so assigned. 

Reasoning from the possible motives of the forger is 
uncertain, but must nevertheless be taken into account. 
One motive frequently assigned seems clearly a fallacy ; 
namely, the supposition that the Donation was forged 
for use as an inducement for Pippin to make grants 
of Italian land to the popes. One can easily ascertain 
what inducements the popes actually held out to him 
to get help for the papacy. They do not use the name 
of Constantine at all; that would then have had no 
appeal for the Franks. They use St. Peter, however, 
time and time again. * Stephen II even wrote a letter 
in the name of St. Peter to Pippin urging and command- 
ing the Frank to come to the help of Rome. * Far from 
being produced by the Constitution Constantini, the 
donation of Pippin more likely suggested the later use 
of the story of Constan tine's gifts to Sylvester as a sup- 
port for definite papal claims. 

It is entirely probable that the forgery was not per- 
petrated for immediate use in support of papal preten- 

1 Cf. Cod. Carol , nos. 12, 42, 45, 65; see also article by Haller, Die 
Karohngeru. d. Papsttum, in Hist. Zeit., 108, 3-12, i, pp. 39-76. 

2 Cod. Carol , 10 (A. D. 756), p. 55. 


sions over against the Prankish rulers. The forger is very 
vague and indefinite as to donations of land, but he makes 
sweeping statements concerning the transfer of imperial, 
political power in Italy to the papacy, and very definite 
statements of the honor and dignity granted to the pope 
by the emperor. What is given most explicitly is the 
dignity, the aristocratic rank, what we might even call 
the social prerogatives, of the Roman bishop and his 
clergy, and Constantine's surrender to him of imperial 
jurisdiction in the West. These matters were not in- 
volved in the relations of the papacy and the Franks. 
Moreover it is doubtful whether to Pippin the old 
Roman emperors were more than distant names, and 
whether an old imperial document would have had any 
considerable influence upon him. 

On the other hand, the latter half of the eighth cen- 
tury was precisely the time when the papacy finally 
broke the political ties which bound it to Constanti- 
nople. Such assertions as the " Donation " makes would 
be of great use in vindicating the independent policy of 
the papacy in Italy over against the lingering claims of 
the eastern emperor. If there was any particular occa- 
sion at Rome in the time of Stephen II and Paul I which 
called for magnificent assertions of that sort, it has not 
as yet come to light. There may well have been such 
an occasion, but it is not at all necessary to assume it; 
the general situation and aspirations of the Roman bishop 
and clergy in the troublous times of the eighth century 
were occasion enough. The forgery itself did not in- 
volve the creation of much new material, it consisted in 
throwing into the form of a legal document a current 
version of the legend of Constantine's Roman baptism 
with current confessions of faith inserted, and adding a 
grant by Constantine to Sylvester of imperial rank, of the 


imperial crown, of the government of Italy, and of other 
social and ecclesiastical perquisites. Indeed, it may be 
said to have merely added to the Sylvester legend a 
formal confession of the orthodox faith, and a pretended 
official, legal grant from Constantine to Sylvester of 
prerogatives and a position which the popes had already 
begun to hold in central Italy. 1 

The first use made of the document to impress the 
Franks and their rulers dates from after the death of 
Charlemagne. It may have been cited for the purpose 
for which Brunner thinks it was forged, namely, to prove 
to Louis the Pious the necessity of receiving the impe- 
rial crown at the hands of the pope. There is no direct 
proof of this, but the situation was appropriate, and, as 
a matter of fact, Louis did repeat the coronation cere- 
mony at Rheims in 816, and was crowned this time by 
pope Stephen IV. 3 By the middle of the century the 

l lt has long been recognized that the "Donation" in granting to 
the pope imperial rights over '* Rome and all the provinces, places and 
states of Italy, and the Western regions," dealt only with Italy, Lom- 
bardy, Venetia and Istna, and adjacent islands. In this point it was 
merely in line with the requirements of the papal policy, in view of the 
danger from the Lombards, etc., that the eastern empire, which could 
no longer protect Italy, should not interfere so as to check or humiliate 
Rome It sanctions that policy by showing that Constantine had per- 
manently ceded imperial authority in "Italy * * * and the Western 
regions "to the popes. This is well brought out by Hartmann, 
Gesclnchte Hal-tens vm M^ttelalter J n, n (1903), pp. 218-231, et passim, 
the best discussion of the "Donation" in its relation to the Italian 
situation. Cf also, Caspar, E., Pippin u. d romische Kirche (Berlin, 
1914), pp. 185-189. 

The rather surprising frequency of Greek MSS of the " Donation " 
and of its use at Constantinople (cf Dollinger, op cit , p 73 et seq. 
Steuchus said he had seen four Greek MSS of it in the Vatican Library) 
may be an indication of an early attempt to cite it there. If this be so, 
there is an interesting analogy between the effort of Baronius and his 
successors to prove the Greek origin of the forgery, and the effort of 
Grauert and others recently to prove its Prankish origin. 
2 Grauert, " Die Konstanimsche Schenkung," in the Hist. Jahrbuch 


Constitutum Constantini had gained recognition in France 
to such an extent as to ensure its circulation and preser- 
vation. Its subsequent history has already been told. 

des Gorresgesellschaft in 1882-1884, made a strong argument for the 
origin of the document at a date in the eighth century (after 840). 
Brunner, in the Festgabe fur Rudolf von Gneist (1888), pp. 1-35, agreed 
with Grauert m fixing a later date than had formerly been common, but 
locates the forgery at Rome (instead of in France, as Grauert had 
done) and between 813 and 816. Though an earlier date than this 
seems called for, the document may have been touched up in one or 
two places for the use referred to above. 


Vita Silvestri, from Boninus Mombntius; Sanctuanum 
seu Vitae sanctorum (Milan, c. 1479), Tom. II, f. 289 et seq. 
New ed. duo monachi Solesmenses (Benedictines in France) , 
(Paris, 1910), II, p. 508 et seq The text of the following is 
based on the 1910 edition, a careful comparison of this edition 
with the older one having shown that the editing was carefully 
done Some of the opening sections, and the last parts, are 
omitted as not bearing on the subject in hand. Cf. sufra, pp. 


Historiograpbus 1 noster Eusebius Caesariae Palestinae urbis 
episcopus cum histonam ecclesiasticam scriberet . pretermisit 
ea : quae m alns opusculis sunt : uel quae se meminit retu- 
lisse : Nam uigmti hbros idest duas decadas omnium pene 
prouinciarum passiones martyrum et episcoporum et con- 
fessorum et sacrarum uirginum ac muherum continere fecit . 
Deinde secutus et ab apostolo Petro omnium episcoporum 
nomma et gesta conscnpsit * et earum urbium . quae arcem 
pontificatus per apostolicas sedes tenere noscuntur : ut urbs 
Roma . Antiochia . hyerosohma . Ephesus et Alexandria . 
Harum urbium episcoporum omnium praeteritorum nomina 
usque ad tempus suum at gesta graeco sermone conscripsit : 
Ex quo numero unum episcoporum urbis Romae sanctum Syl- 
uestrum me de graeco in latinum transf erre praecepisti domine 
sancte ac beatissime pater . Quia itaque exiguum me ad trans- 
lationem hanc esse consydero : elegi hoc detergere : quod sim 
parui sermonis et inertis ingemi : Vnde obsecro : ut pro me 
tuis orationibus impetres : ne qui culpam contemptoris fugio : 
praesumptoris noxam incurram : sed tuis orationibus ueniam 
me consequi non dubito . Credo enim quod orando impleri 
facias : quod me arripere iubendo fecisti . 

1 Word misspelled in original. 
217] 217 

2I g APPENDIX [2l8 

Syluester urbis Romae episcopus cum infantulus esset a 
uidua matre lusta nomine et opere traditus est ut erudiretur 
a Cyrino presbytero : cui quottidie sedulum exhibebat offi- 
cium : Ems autem uitam imitatus et mores : ad summum api- 

cem christianae religionis attigit x 

In illo tempore exiit edictum : ut christiani ad sacrificandum 
idolis cogerentur : unde f actum est ut secedens ab urbe sanctus 
Syluester Sirapti latibulo cum suis se clericis collocaret . Con- 
stantinus autem Augustus monarchiam tenens cum plurimas 
strages de christianis dedisset : et innumerabilem populum per 
omnes prouincias fecisset uanis poenarum generibus inter- 
fici : elefantiae a deo lepra in toto corpore percussus est . Huic 
cum diuersa magorum et medicorum agmina subuenire non 
potuissent : pontifices capitolii hoc dederunt consilium : de- 
bere piscinam fieri in ipso capitolio : quae puerorum sanguine 
repleretur in quam calido ac fumante sanguine nudus de- 
scendens Augustus mox posset a uulnere illius leprae mundari . 
Missum est igitur et de rebus fisci uel patrimonii regis ad tria 
millia ; et eo amplius adducti ad urbem Romam pontificibus 
traditi sunt Capitolii , Die autem constitute egrediente im- 
peratore Constantino palatium ad hoc eunti ad capitollium : ut 
sanguis innoxius funderetur : occurrit multitude mulierum : 
quae omnes resolutis crinibus nudatisque pectoribus dantes 
hululatus et mugitus coram eo se in plateis fundentes lachry- 
mas strauerunt . Percunctatus itaque Constantinus Augustus 
qua de causa multitude haec mulierum ista f aceret : didicit has 
matres esse filiorum eorum : quorum effundendus erat san- 
guis : tandiu quousque piscina repleretur : in qua medendi 
causa lauandus descenderet et sanandus . Tune imperator ex- 
horruit facinus : et se tantorum criminum reum fore apud 
deum existimans : quantorum esset numerus puerorum : uicit 
crudelitatem pontificum pietas romam imperil : et prorum- 
pens in lachrymis iussit stare carrucam : et erigens se ac conu- 
ocans immerses clara uoce dixit : audite me comites et com- 
militones et omnes populi : qui astatis : romani imperil digni- 

1 The other opening sections are omitted as not bearing upon the 
subject in hand. 

219] APPENDIX 219 

tas de fonte nascitur pietatis . Cur ergo praeponam salutem 
meam saluti populi mnocentis ? Nunc autem ab effusione in- 
noxii sanguinis sententiam crudelitatis excludam . Mehus est 
enim pro salute innocentum mon : quam per interitum eorum 
uitam recuperare crudelem : quam tamen recuperare incertum 
est : cum certum sit recuperata crudelitas . Sic semper contra 
hostes nostra certamina in praeliis extitisse noscuntur : ut 
reus esset legibus et capital! sententiae subderetur * quicum- 
que aliquem occidisset mfantem : Eratque hoc statutum in 
bello : ut facies ilia quam pubertas adhuc non nouerat gla- 
dium eaaderet bellatoris : et uita incolumis permaneret . Nunc 
itaque quod in hostium filiis custoditum est : in filiis nostro- 
rum ciuium exercebimus ? ut simus nostris legibus rei atque 
captiuitate animae et conscientiae captiuabimur . qui pug- 
nando fidehter omnium gentium meruimus esse uictores ? Quid 
iuuat barbaros superasse : si a crudelitate uincamur ? Nam 
uicisse extraneas nationes bello uirtus est populorum : uincere 
autem uicia peccata et crimina uirtus est morum . In illis ergo 
preliis extitimus forliores illis : In his autem nobis ipsis for- 
tiores sumus : cum uincimus nosmetipsos : dum mala uota 
nostra excludimus : et quod inconsulte desyderamus : con- 
suite et utiliter exercemus . hoc autem f acimus : quando uolun- 
tatibus deorum uoluntates nostras postponimus : et diuinis 
desyderiis obedientes nostra desyderia impugnamus et in hoc 
certamine uictos nos esse hac ratione gaudemus : ut agnos- 
camus nos contra salutem nostram uoluisse pugnare . Nam 
qui conatur perpetrare : quod malum est : captiuare utique 
studet bonitatem . Cum ergo isto fuerit certamine superatus : 
uictoriam obtinet uictus quomam uictor perditionem inuen- 
erat : et malam captiuitatem incurrerat post triumphum : si 
tamen triumphus dici potest : quando pietas ab impietate uin- 
citur : et iusticia ab iniusticia superatur . Vincat ergo nos 
pietas in isto congressu . Vere enim omnium aduersantium 
poterimus esse uictores ; si a sola pietate uincamur . Omnium 
et enim uerum se esse dominum comprobat : qui uerum se 
seruum ostenderit esse pietatis . Cum ad istam conctionemj 
omnis exercitus omnisque populus diutissime acclamasset : 

220 APPENDIX [220 

Itemque conctionatus dixit : lussit pielas romana filios suis 
matribus reddi : ut dulcedo reddita filiorum amantudmem 
lachrimarum maternarum obdulcet . Et haec dicens iter quod 
arripuerat eundi ad capitolium deserens : ad palatium rediit . 
Non solum autem filios reddidit : uerum etiam dona simul am- 
plissima et uehicula mfinita et annonas iussit expend! : ut quae 
flaentes uenerant et lugentes : ad patriam alienam : alacres 
cum gaudio ad cmitates suas reuerterentur . 

Hac igiter transacta die nocturno regis facto silentio : somni 
tempus aduenit : Et ecce adsunt apostoli sancti P'etrus cum 
Paulo dicentes : Nos sumus Petrus et Paulus quoniam 
flagitns termmum posuisti : et sanguims innocentis effussi- 
onem horruisti : missi sumus a Christo lesu domino nostro 
dare tibi sanitatis recuperandae consilmm . Audi ergo monita 
nostra : et omnia fac quaecumque tibi mdicatnus . Syluester 
episcopus ciuitatis Romae ad montem Sirapti persecutiones 
tuas fugiens in cauernis petrarum cum suis clericis latebram 
fouet . Hunc cum ad te adduxeris : ipse tibi piscinam pietatis 
ostendet : m quam dum te tertio merserit omnis te ista de- 
seret leprae uahtudo : quod dum factum fuent hanc uicissi- 
tudinem tuo saluaton compensa : ut omnes iussione tua per 
totum orbem romanorum ecclesiae restaurentur tu autem te 
ipsum in h?c parte purifica : ut relicta omni idolorum super- 
stitione deum unum qui uerus et solus est deus adores et ex- 
colas et ad eius uoluntatem attingas . Exurgens igitur a 
somno Constantinus Augustus statim conuocans eos qui ob- 
seruabant palatium et secundum tenorem somni sui misit ad 
montem Sirapti ubi sanctus Syluester in cuiusdam christiani 
agro persecutionis causa cum suis clericis receptus lectiombus 
et orationibus insistebat * At ubi se a militibus conuentum 
uidit * credidit ad martym coronam se uocari : et conuersus 
ad clerum omnibus qui cum eo erant dixit : ecce nunc tempus 
acceptabile ecce nunc dies salutis : aduenit tempus quo nos 
lectio docuit operum nostrorum assignare f ructum . Ecce domi- 
nus iterum spiritaliter inter homines ambulat : si quis uult 

1 The paragraphing is mine Note how closely this section is copied 
in the Constitutum Constantini, cf, infra, pp. 230-231. 

221] APPENDIX 221 

post eum uenire * abneget semetipsum sibi : et tollat crucem 
suam : et sequatur eum : Ut haec dicens orationem fecit omne- 
que mysterium adimpleuit commendans animam suam et dans 
pacem omnibus prof ectus est . Secuti sunt autem eum uniuersi 
clenci cum presbyteris triginta et diaconibus quinque optantes 
passioni simul succumbere : melius arbitrantes cum illo pro 
Chnsto mori quam in eius absentia epulan : erat enim tran- 
quillo semper animo et sereno : ita omnes clericos dihgens : et 
sicut gallma pullos suos euocans : ut circa uniuersos carum 
amorem ostenderet : et omni hora eos monitis caelestibus eru- 
diret . Vnde factum est : ut omnes eruditionis sagena refecti 
passionem magis diligerent quam timerent : et simul cum eo 
alacres properarent . Profectus itaque ut dictum est : peruenit 
ad regem . Tune illico assurgens augustus prior eum salutauit 
dicens : Bene uenisse te gratulamur : Cui sanctus Syluester 
respondit : pax tibi et uictona de caelo submimstretur : quern 
cum rex alacri ammo et uultu placidissimo suscepisset : omnia 
illi quae ei facta quaeque reuelata sunt secundum textum su- 
perius compraehensum exposuit . Post finem uero narrationis 
suae percunctabatur qui isti essent dii Petrus et Paulus : qui 
ilium uisitassent : et ob quam causam salutis suae latebram 
detexissent . Cui sanctus Syluester respondit : deus unus 
est : quern colimus : qui totum mundum fecit ex nihilo idest 
caelum et terram et omnia quae in eis sunt . Petrus autem 
et Paulus dii non sunt sed serui dei : qui illi per fidem pla- 
centes hoc consecuti sunt : ut arcem teneant sanctitatis : et 
sic in numero sanctorum omnium primi a deo apostoh facti 
sunt . Ergo ipsi primi diuimtatem domini nostri lesu christi 
filii dei gentibus praedicauerunt : et omnis ecclesia ab ipsis 
initium sumpsit . Hi expleto apostolatus officio ad palmam 
martyrii peruenerunt : et sunt modo amici omnipotentis dei . 
Cum haec et his similia gratanter augustus audisset : dixit 
peto utrum hos istos apostolos habet aliqua imago expresses : 
ut in ipsis liniamentis passim agnoscere hos esse : quos me 
reuelatio docuisset : qui mihi dixerunt se a deo missos esse . 
Tune sanctus Syluester mssit diacono suo ut imaginem aposto- 
lorum exhiberet : quam imperator aspiciens cum ingenti cla- 

222 APPENDIX [222 

more coepit dicere : nihil inferius hac imagine in eorum ef- 
figie quorum uultus in uisione conspexi . Hi ergo mihi dixe- 
runt : mitte ad Syluestrum episcopum : et hie tibi ostendet 
piscinam pietatis : in qua cum lotus fueris . omnium conse- 
queris tuorum uulnerum sanitatem . Cui sanctus Syluester re- 
spondit : Audi me rex : et salutis piscmam necessanam hoc 
ordme require : ut primum credas Christum filium dei idea 
de caelo uenisse : et inter homines conuersatum esse : ut istam 
piscinam credentibus in se manifestaret : Cui Augustus re- 
spondit : ego nisi credidissem : ad te poemtus non misissem . 
Tune sanctus Syluester dixit : exige a te ipso una hebdomade 
ieiunium : et deposita purpura intra cubiculum tuum . ibique 
induere ueste humili : prosterne cylicium : et confitere modo 
per ignorantiam erroris factum : ut christianis persecutionem 
induceres : et ipsum esse saluatorem corporum et ammarum 
non solum loquendo sed et credendo pronuncia : et poenitere 
multos sanctos dei occidisse : et in hac hebdomade templa iube 
claudi : et cessare omnia sacnficia idolorum : debitores fisco 
pauperes laxa : carceratos dimitti praecipe in exiliis et metal- 
lis aut in quibuscumque tribulationibus constitutis indulgen- 
tiam dari constitue . lube per totam hebdomada eleimosynas 
fieri : beneficia etiam postulantibus exhiberi praecipe : et 
idoneos qui haec exequantur constitue . Tune Constantinus 
imperator dixit : constat omnes culturas homines in supersti- 
tione diligere : nee posse ibi dmimtatis glonam mueniri ubi 
mendax assertio deum dicit hunc esse quern fecit . Nisi inuisi- 
bihs iste est : qui inuocatus aquis hanc uirtutem concedit : ut 
peccata aniinarum abluat : et corponbus conferat medicinam : 
constat hunc esse uerum deum : cuius apostoli me uisitare dig- 
nati sunt : et hoc monere : ut unum deum credam saluatorem 
meum . Cum haec et his similia Constantinus Augustus diceret 
: imposuit sanctus Syluester manus super caput eius : et bene- 
dicens eum : ac faciens cathecutninum abiit . Post haec sanc- 
tus Syluester conuocatis omnibus presbyteris ac diaconibus 
cum uniuerso clero indixit ieiunium biduanum omni ecclesiae 
dicens : Si Nineuitae in praedicatione lonae per triduanum 
ieiunium iram dei et offensam pro meritis debitam euase- 

223] APPENDIX 223 

runt : quanto magis nos m praedicatione domini nostri lesu 
christi persecutiones euadimus . lucramur animas pacem del 
ecclesns acquirimus : et idolatriis finem imponimus : hoc autem 
facimus si leiuniis et oratiombus hoc a domino impetremus * 
Faetum est unanimiter ieiunanitibus cum ornamento orationis 
idest die sexta et sabbato in quo claudendum erat ieiunium 
uespertmo tempore dixit Constantino regi Syluester episcopus 
: audi me rex . piscina ergo haec omnis aqua quae est sub 
caelo siue maris siue flummum sme fontium sme paludum sme 
stagnorum : tanta uirtus est nommis Christi : ut ad inuoca- 
tionem eius peccata uniuersa abluat : et salutem conf^rat : 
quam fides credentis exposcit . Vocansque ipsum secum Au- 
gustum ieiunantem momtisque mstruens constantia engens : 
fide certissimum reddens : Vespere itaque sabbati mbet laua- 
crum caloris sui in palatio lateranensi augustum ingredi : quo- 
ingresso ipse ad benedictionem fontis accedit . Benedicto ita- 
que fonte Augustus introgreditur : quern Syluester episcopus 
suscipiens interrogat . si ex toto corde credit in patrem et 
filium et spiritumsanctum : qui cum credere se clara uoce 
diceret : et pompis se diaboli renunciare toto corde assereret : 
mersit confitentis Augusti in piscina totum corpus : atque ' 
sancto superfundens chrismate dixit : qui mundasti in lordane 
lepram Naaman Syri : et caeci nati oculos per aquam aper- 
uisti : et Paulo apostolo per baptismum oculos quos amiserat 
reddidisti : et fecisti nobis ex persecutore doctorem : tu 
emunda hunc seruum tuum omnium terrenorum principem 
Constantinum . Et sicut animam eius ab omni stercorae peccati 
mundasti : ita corpus eius ab omni hac lepra elephantiae ablue : 
ut ex persequente credentem et defendentem se habere uirum 
hunc sancta tua ecclesia glorietur per dominum nostrum lesum 
christum filium tuum : qui tecum uiuit et regnat in unitate 
spiritussancti in saecula saeculorum : Cumque omnes respon- 
dissent : amen : Subito quasi fulgur lux intolerabilis per me- 
diam fere horam emicuit : quae omnium et mentes exterruit : 
et aspectus obtexit : et ecce sonus in aqua quasi sartaginis stri- 
dentis exortus ueluti piscium ingentium Christus totam illam 
piscinam fontis repletam ostendit . Ex qua mundus surgens 


Constantinus imperator Christum se uidisse confessus est . Et 
indutus uestibus candidis prima die baptismatis sui hanc legem 
dedit : Christum deum esse uerum : qui se mundasset a leprae 
periculo : et hunc debere coli ab omni orbe romano . Secunda 
die dedit legem ut qui Christum blasphemasse probatus fuent 
puniretur . Tertia die promulgauit legem : ut si quis christiano 
f ecisset inmriam : omnium bonorum suorum f acultatem dimi- 
diam amitteret . Quarta die priuilegium ecclesiae romanae 
pontificique contulit : ut in toto orbe romano sacerdotes ita 
hunc caput habeant : sicut omnes mdices regem . Quinta die 
in quocumque loco fuerit fabricata ecclesia consecrationis suae 
hanc uirtutem obtineat ut quicunque reus ad earn confu- 
gerit : a iudicis periculo qui in praesenti fuerit defensetur . 
Sexta die dedit legem : nulli mtra muros cuiuscumque ciui- 
tatis dari licentiam ecclesiam construendi : nisi ex consensu 
praesentis episcopi : quern sedes apostolica probasset antisti- 
tem . Septima die omnium possessionum regalium decimas 
manu ludiciaria exigi ad aedificationem ecclesiarum . Octaua 
die processit albis depositis totus mundus et saluus : et ueniens 
ad conf essionem apostoli Petri ablato diademate capitis totum 
se planum proiiciens in faciem tantam illic lachrymarum ef- 
fudit multitudinem : ut omnia ilia insignia uestimenta pur- 
purea infunderentur : Dans uocem inter amaras lachrymas 
quibus se errasse : se pecasse se reum esse de presecutione 
sanctorum commemorans et ob hoc non se esse dignum eius 
limina contingere : Cumque mgenti gemitu haec exclamaret : 
quantus ibi ab omni populo lachrimarum fusus est numerus : 
quis memorare sufficiat ? Erat autem tale gaudium flaetibus 
plenum quale solet esse in caris mortuis suscitatis aut in his : 
qui euaserunt naufragia : aut in his qui uicinos dentes euadere 

Verum quoniam de his longum est enarrare * dicamus 
quid prima die processionis suae egit Exuens se chlamy- 
dem et accipiens bidentem terram primus aperuit ad funda- 
mentum basilicae construendum Dehinc in numero duodecim 
apostolorum duodecim cophinos plenos suis humeris super- 
positos baiulauit de eodem loco : ubi fundamentum basilicae 

225] APPENDIX 225 

apostolis debuerat fundare et ita gaudens et exultans in car- 
ruca sua una cum papa residens ad palatium rediit . Altera 
uero die simihter intra palatium suum lateranensem basilicae 
f abricam coepit : dans talem legem : quae in his uerbis conclu- 
ditur . Sit omnibus no turn : ita nos Christi cultores effectos : 
ut intra palatium nostrum templum ems nomini construamus 
m quo populus christianus una nobiscum conueniens deitati eius 
gratias referamus . Hac itaque lege data constituit atque edicto 
pendente proponi iussit : ut si quis pauper christianus fieri 
uoluisset de facultatibus regiis uestimenta Candida et uiginti 
solidos de archa regis acciperet . Hoc autem factum est * ne 
cupiditas imperaret fallaciam : et non credentibus sed temp- 
tantibus istis donis proficeret . Tanta autem eo anno credidit 
multitude : ut uirorum numerus baptizatorum ad duodecim 
milha tenderetur excepta mulierum populositate et inf antium . 
Sic quoque ex uno latere crescebat del populus in gloria : ut 
ex altero paganis conf usio nasceretur . Igitur cum et senatorum 
caterua huic relligiom sanctae fidem nullus adhiberet : nee ob 
hoc irasci alicui . Augustum papa permitteret : praecepit Au- 
gustus sibi in basilicam excelsum tribunal statui : et senatum 
ac populum romanum hac uoce affatus est : profanae dissen- 
siones mentium ideo nulla ratione salubre consilium sumunt : 
quia profunda ignorantiae circundantur cahgme : et nullus eas 
clarus ac serenus ueritatis splendor illummat . Aperiendi sunt 
ergo lumme scientiae oculi animorum et diligenti est examina- 
tione cernendum : istos deos nee dici debere : nee credi : qui 
ab hominibus facti noscuntur . Non enim dii sunt : sed homi- 
nes magis ipsi eorum dii dici possunt quos ipsi plasmauerunt . 
Denique si quid aliquo casu in his laesum fuerit : homines qui 
sua eos arte fecerunt : sua eos nihilommus arte restaurant ., 
Sunt ergo homines : ut dixi . dii eorum qui dum non essent 
eos fecerunt : et dum fecissent : laesi ab eis restaurantur . 
Vnde coniecturam summens mecum omnibus ad culturam uen 
dei exhibeo : quod in me quoque factum aspicitis ipsi et pro- 
batis : Nisi enim ipse esset deus Christus : qui me fecit : non 
utique quod ab alio factum fuerat restaurare ualuisset . Pro- 
batur ergo humanum genus huius dei esse figmentum : qui 

226 APPENDIX [226 

restaurat lapsum : fractum solidat sublimat alhsum . Sicut 
tmiuersa ista idola quae hominum figmenta sunt : ideo homi- 
num auxilio cum laesa fuerint reparantur . Habeant itaque 
habeant iam finem isti errores . abdicetur ista superstitio : 
quam ignorantia concepit : stulticia nutnuit : et aluit . Adore- 
tur deus solus : qui unus et uerus regnat in caelis . Desmamus 
hos colere : a quibus saluari non possumus : et quos laesos ipsi 
saluamus . Cessemus ab eis flagitare nostri custodiam : quos 
nostri custodia tuemur ne pereant . Quid miserius quam aes 
lapidesque adorare et ferrum ? Sit itaque omnibus gratum : 
quod sum a Christo quern negabam pnstinae redditus sanitati : 
et ab isto errore ipso domino lesu christo auxiliante cessamus . 
Et quoniam sapientia romanorum non fallitur : istum deum 
excolat : a quo ipsa custodiatur : non quem ipsa custodiat . 
Verum ne longa oratio omnes uos intentos extendat : quid 
constituendum censui breuiter pandam : Patere uolumus chris- 
tianis ecclesias : ut priuilegia quae sacerdotes templorum ha- 
bere noscuntur : antistites chnstianae legis assumant . Vt 
autem notum sit uniuerso orbi romano uero deo et domino lesu 
christo nos inclinare ceruices : intra palatium meum ecclesiam 
Christo arripui construendam : ut uniuersitas hominum com- 
probet : nulla dubietatis in corde meo uel praeteriti erroris re- 
manisse uestigia : Cumque in isto uerbo fuisset eloquium : 
uox populorum per tria horarum spatia haec sunt : qui Chris- 
tum negant male depereant : quia ipse est uerus deus . Dictum 
est tricies . Item unus deus christianorum . Dictum est quad- 
ragies . Item templa claudantur : et ecclesiae pateant . Dictum 
est decies . Item qui Christum non colunt : inimici Augustorum 
sunt . Dictum est quadratics . Item qui saluauit Augustum : 
Ipse est uerus deus . Dictum est tricies . Item qui Christum 
non colunt : hostes romanorum sunt . Dictum est decies . Item 
qui Christum colit : semper uicit : Dictum est quadragies . 
Item sacerdotes templorum ab urbe pellantur . Dictum est quad- 
ragies . Item qui adhuc sacrificant diis : ab urbe pellantur . 
Dictum est terdecies . Item iube : ut hodie repellantur . Dictum 
est quadragies . Ad hanc uocem Imperator silentium petiit : 
quo facto sic allocutus est populum : Inter diuina humanaque 

227] APPENDIX 227 

seruitia hoc interest : ut humana seruitia coacta sint : diuina 
autem uoluntaria comprobentur . Deus enim quia mente coli- 
tur : et sincere hominis ueneratur affectu : spontanea eius 
debet esse cultura . In hoc enim apparet : quia uerus deus est : 
quod per tanta saecula contemptoribus suis non iratus finem 
imposuit : sed propitium se esse qui coli debeat demonstrauit 
indulgendo crimina : et salutem animabus et corporibus con- 
f erendo . Sit ergo omnibus notum : non necessitate coactos : 
sed suo iudicio liberos posse fieri christianos nee humanum, 
metuentes imperium ad dei culturam accedere aliquos opor- 
tere : sed rationabili consyderatione magis rogare : uti chris- 
tianorum numero applicentur ab us : qui huic sacratissimae 
legi deseruiunt . lustum et enim uerumque conspicimus : ut 
sicut petentibus culpa est * si negetur . ita non petentibus si 
tradatur iniquum . Nee hoc aliqui metuant : quod a nostra 
gratia dmellantur : si christiam esse noluerint . nostra enim 
claementia talis est : ut opere non mutetur . Vnde hoc consy- 
derandum est : quod magis nobis adhaerebunt in amiciciis ii : 
qui spontanee ad christianam legem uenire uoluerint . Tune 
omnibus popuhs et christianis et paganis hanc legem laudan- 
tibus : et uitam Augusto optantibus iteratus clamor populi 
factus est diutissimus . Et cum finis huius rei factus fuisset : 
reuerteni Augusto ad palatium tota ciuitas cereis lampadibus- 
que repleta coronata est : erat enim omnibus gaudium : quo- 
niam lex talis processerat : quae nullum ad culturam impell- 
er et : nullum a Christi cultura repelleret . Fit uox laeticiae per 
uniuersas ecclesias . honorantur uniuersa sepulchra sanc- 
torum : omnesque confessores qui cathenati ad diuersa fuer- 
ant exilia tracti : cum gloria et honore regio ad patrias pro- 
prias reuocati amici effect! sunt regis . Caetera quae facta 
sunt uel dicta praetero : ne pro ipsa prolyxitate fastidium 
lector incurrat : sunt enim alia plura et utihora : quae prae- 
terire non debeo . Exigit enim haec histona : ut ad Helenam 
imperatoris matrem flectam articulum : et hoc ordine ad finem 
huius operis attingam. 1 

1 Then follows a long account of the conversion of Helena through 
a disputation between Sylvester and Jewish rabbis, which forms a 
regular element in the oriental form of the Sylvester legend, cf. supra, 
pp. 163-164. 

228 APPENDIX [228 




[Reprinted from edition by Karl Zeumer, in Festgabe fur 
Rudolf von Gneist (Julius Springer, Berlin, 1888, 8 marks), 
pp. 47-59, by permission of the publishers.] 

1. In nomine sanctae et individuae Trinitatis, Patris scilicet et 
Filii et Spiritus sancti. Imperator Caesar Flavius Constan- 
tinus in Christo Jesu, uno ex eadem sancta Trinitate salvatore 
domino Deo nostro, fidehs, mansuetus, maximus, beneficus, 
Alamannicus, Gothicus, Sarmaticus, Germanicus, Brittannicus, 
Hunicus, pius, felix, victor ac tnumphator, semper augustus, 
sanctissimo ac beatissimo patri patrum Silvestrio, urbis Romae 
episcopo et pape, atque omnibus eius successoribus, qui in 
sede beati Petn usque in finem saeculi sessuri sunt, pontificibus, 
nee non et omnibus reverentissimis et Deo amabilibus catholicis 
episcopis, eidem sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae per hanc 
nostram imperialem constitutionem subiectis in universo orbe 
terrarum, nunc et in posteris cunctis retro temporibus con- 
stitutis, gratia, pax, caritas, gaudium, longanimitas, miseri- 
cordia, a Deo patre omnipotente et Jesu Christo filio eius et 
Spiritu sancto cum omnibus vobis. 

2. Ea quae salvator et redemptor noster dominus Jesus 
Christus, altissimi Patris filius, per suos sanctos apostolos 
Petrum et Paulum, intervemente patre nostro Silvestrio summo 
pontifice et universal! papa, mirabiliter operari dignatus est, 
liquida enarratione per huius nostrae imperialis institutionis 
paginam ad agnitionem omnium populorum in universo orbe 
terrarum nostra studuit propagare mansuetissima serenitas. 
Primum quidem fidem nostram, quam a prelato beatissimo 
patre et oratore nostro Silvestrio universal! pontifice edocti 

i Cf. supra, pp. 175-177. 

229] APPENDIX 229 

sumus, intima cordis confessione ad instruendas omnium ves- 
trtim menies proferentes et ita demum misericordiam Dei super 
nos diffusam adnuntiantes. 

Nosse enim vos volumus, sicut per antenorem nostram 
sacram pragmaticam iussionem sigmficavimus, nos a cultuns 
idolorum, simulacns mutis et surdis manuf actis, diabolicis com- 
positionibus atque ab omnibus Satanae pompis recessisse et ad 
mtegram Christianorum fidem, quae est vera lux et vita per- 
petua, pervenisse, credentes, mxta id quod nos isdem almificus 
summus pater et doctor noster Silvester instruit pontifex, in 
Deum patrem, omnipotentem factorem caeli et terrae, visi- 
bilium omnium et invisibihum, et in Jesum Christum, filium 
eius unicum, dominum Deum nostrum, per quern creata sunt 
omnia, et in Spiritum sanctum, dominum et vivificatorem uni- 
versae creaturae. Hos Patrem et Filium et Spiritum sanctum 
confitemur, ita ut m Trinitate perfecta et plemtudo sit divini- 
tatis et umtas potestatis. Pater Deus, Films Deus et Spintus 
sanctus Deus, et tres unum sunt in Jesu Christo. 

Tres itaque formae, sed una potestas. Nam sapiens retro 
semper Deus edidit ex se, per quod semper erant gignenda 
secula, verbum, et quando eodem solo suae sapientiae verbo 
universam ex nihilo formavit creaturam, cum eo erat, cuncta 
suo arcano componens mysterio. Igitur perfectis caelorum 
virtutibus et universis terrae materiis, pio sapientiae suae nutu 
ad imaginem et similitudinem suam pnmum de limo terrae 
fingens hominem, hunc in paradyso posuit voluptatis; quern 
antiquus serpens et hostis invidens, diabolus, per amarissimum 
ligni vetiti gustum exulem ab eisdem efficit gaudns, eoque 
expulso, non desinit sua venenosa multis modis protelare 
iacula, ut a via veritatis humanum abstrahens genus idolorum 
culturae, videlicet creaturae et non creatori deservire suadeat, 
quatenus per hos eos, quos suis valuent inretire insidiis secum 
aeterno efficiat concremandos supplicio. Sed Deus noster, 
misertus plasmae suae, dirigens sanctos suos prophetas, per 
quos lumen futurae vitae, adventum videlicet filii sui, domini 
Dei et salvatoris nostri Jesu Chnsti, adnuntians, misit eundem 
unigenitum suum filium et sapientiae verbum. Qui descendens 

230 APPENDIX [230 

de celis propter no strain salutem natus de Spiritu sancto et 
Maria virgine, verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis. 
Non amisit, quod fuerat, sed coepit esse, quod non erat, Deum 
perf ectum et hominem perf ectum, ut Deus mirabiha perficiens, 
ut homo humanas passiones sustinens. Ita verum hominem 
et verum Deutn, predicante patre nostro Silvestno summo 
pontifice, intelligimus, ut verum Deum verum hominem fuisse 
nullo modo ambigamus; electisque duodecim apostolis, mira- 
culis coram eis et mumerabilis populi multitudine choruscavit. 
Confitemur eundem dominum Jesum Christum adimplesse 
legem et prophetas, passum, crucifixum, secundum scripturas 
tertia die a mortuis resurrexisse, adsumptum in celis atque 
sedentem ad dexteram Patris, mde venturum mdicare vivos 
et mortuos, cuius regni non ent finis 

5. Haec est emm fides nostra orthodoxa a beatissimo patre 
nostro Silvestno summo pontifice nobis prolata; exhortantes 
idcirco omnem populum et diversas gentium nationes hanc 
fidem tenere, colere ac predicare et in sanctae Trmitatis 
nomine baptismi gratiam consequi et dominum Jesum Chris- 
tum salvatorem nostrum, qui cum Patre et Spiritu sancto per 
infinita vivit et regnat saecula, quern Silvester, beatissimus 
pater noster universalis predicat pontifex, corde devoto 

6. Ipse enim dominus Deus noster, misertus mihi peccatori, 
misit sanctos suos apostolos ad visitandum nos, et lumen sui 
splendoris infulsit nobis et abstracto a tenebris ad veram lucem 
et agnitionem veritatis me pervenisse gratulamini. Nam dum 
valida squaloris lepra totam mei corporis mvasisset carnem, 
et multorum medicorum convenientium cura adhiberetur, nee 
unius quidem promerui saluti, ad haec advenerunt sacerdotes 
Capitolii, dicentes mihi debere fieri fontem in Capitolio et 
complere hunc innocentium inf antium sanguine et calente in eo 
loto me posse mundari. Et secundum eorum dicta aggre- 
gatis plurimis innocentibus infantibus, dum vellent sacrilegi 
paganorum sacerdotes eos mactari et ex eorum sanguine 
fontem repleri, cernens seremtas nostra lacrimas matrum 
eQrtun, ilico exhorrui facinus, misertusque eis, proprios illis 

231] APPENDIX 231 

restitui precipimus fihos suos, datisque vehiculis et donis 
concessis, gaudentes ad propria relaxavimus. 

7. * Eadem igitur transacta die, nocturna nobis facta silentia, 
dum somni tempus advenisset, adsunt apostoli, sanctus Petrus 
et Paulus, dicentes mihi . ' Quoniam flagitiis posuisti terminum 
et efTusionem sanguinis innocentis orruisti, missi sumus a 
Christo domino Deo nostro, dare lib! sanitatis recuperande 
consilium. Audi ergo monita nostra et fac quodcumque indi- 
camus tibi. Silvester episcopus civitatis .Romae ad montem 
Seraptem persecutiones tuas fugiens in cavernis petrarum cum 
suis clericis latebram fovet. Hunc cum ad te adduxeris, ipse 
tibi piscinarn pietatis ostendet, in qua dum te tertio merserit, 
omnis te vahtudo ista deseret leprae. Quod dum factum 
fuent, hanc vicissitudinem tuo salvatori conpensa, ut omnes 
iussu tuo per totum orbem ecclesiae restaurentur, te autem 
ipsum in hac parte purifica, ut, relicta omni superstitione 
idolorum, Deum vivum et verum, qui solus est et verus, adores 
et excolas, ut ad eius voluntatem adtingas.' 

8. Exsurgens igitur a somno protinus iuxta id, quod a 
sanctis apostolis ammonitus sum, peregi, advocatoque eodem 
precipuo et almifico patre et inluminatore nostro Silvestrio 
universal! papa, omnia a sanctis apostolis mihi precepta edixi 
verba, percunctatique eum sumus, qui isti dii essent: Petrus 
et Paulus? Ille vero, non eos deos vere dici, sed apostolos 
salvatoris nostri domini Dei Jesu Christi. Et rursum interro- 
gare coepimus eundem beatissimum papam, utrum istorum 
apostolorum imaginem expressam haberet, ut ex pictura dis- 
ceremus hos esse, quos revelatio docuerat. Tune isdem vener- 
abilis pater imagines eorundem apostolorum per diaconem 
suum exhiberi precepit, quas dum aspicerem et eorum, quos 
in somno videram figuratos in ipsis imaginibus cognovissem 
vultus, ingenti clamore coram omnibus satrapibus meis con- 
fessus sum, eos esse, quos in somno videram. 

9. Ad haec beatissimus isdem Silvester pater noster, urbis 
Romae episcopus, indixit nobis penitentiae tempus intro 

1 The alftiost exact copying of this paragraph from the correspond- 
ing section of the Vita Silvestri is noteworthy. Cf. supra, p. 220. 

232 APPENDIX [232 

palatium nostrum Lateranense in uno cilicio, ut omnia, quae 
a nobis impie peracta atque iniuste disposita fuerant, vigihis, 
ieluniis atque lacrimis et oratiombus apud dominum Deum 
nostrum Jesum Christum salvatorem impetraremus. Deinde 
per manus impositionem clericorum usque ad ipsum presulem 
veni, ibique abrenuntians Satanae pompis et operibus eius vel 
universis idolis manuf actis, credere me in Deum patrem, omni- 
potentem factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium et invisibilium, et 
m Jesum Christum filium eius unicum, dominum nostrum, qui 
natus est de Spiritu sancto et Maria virgine, spontanea volun- 
tate coram omni populo professus sum, benedictoque fonte 
illic me trina mersione unda salutis punficavit. Ibi enim, 
me posito f ontis gremio, manu de caelo me contmgente propriis 
vidi ocuhs, de qua mundus exsurgens, ab omni me leprae 
squalore mundatum agnoscite. Levatoque me de venerabili 
fonte, indutus vestibus candidis, septemformis sancti Spiritus 
in me consignation adhibuit beati chrismatis unctionem et 
vexillum sanctae crucis in mea f ronte linivit dicens : ' Signat 
te Deus sigillo fidei suae in nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus 
sancti in consignation fidei'. Cunctus clerus respondit: 
'Amen '. Adiecit presul : ' Pax tibi '. 

10. Prima itaque die post perceptum sacri baptismatis mysterium 
et post curationem corporis mei a leprae squalore agnovi, non 
esse alium Deum nisi Patrem et Filium et Spintum sanctum, 
quern beatissimus Silvester papa predicat, trinitatem in unitate, 
unitatem in trinitate. Nam omnes dii gentium, quos usque 
actenus colui, demoma, opera hominum manu facta conpro- 
bantur, etemm quantam potestatem isdem Salvator noster suo 
apostolo beato Petro contulerit in caelo ac terra lucidissime 
nobis isdem venerabilis pater edixit, dum fidelem eum in sua 
interrogatione inveniens ait: 'Tu es Petrus, et super hanc 
petram aedificabo ecclesiam meam, et porte inferi non pre- 
valebunt adversus earn J . Advertite potentes et aurem cordis 
intendite, quid bonus magister et dominus suo discipulo 
adiunxit inquiens: 'et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum; quod- 
cumque ligavens super terrain, erit ligatum et in caelis, et 
quodcumque solvens super terram, erit solution et in caelis/ 

233] APPENDIX 233 

Minim est hoc valde et gloriosum in terra ligare et solvere, et 
in caelo ligatum et solutum esse. 

11. Et dum hec predicante beato Silvestrio agnoscerem et bene- 
ficiis ipsius beati Petri integre me sanitati comperi restitutum, 
utile iudicavimus una cum omnibus nostns satrapibus et uni- 
verso senatu, optimatibus etiam et cuncto populo Romano, 
gloriae imperil nostri subiacenti, ut, sicut in terris vicarius filii 
Dei esse videtur constitutus, etiam et pontifices, qui ipsius 
prmcipis apostolorum gerunt vices, pnncipatus potestatem 
amplms, quam terrena imperialis nostrae seremtatis mansue- 
tudo habere videtur concessam, a nobis nostroque imperio ob- 
tineant ; ehgentes nobis ipsum pnncipem apostolorum vel ems 
vicanos firmos apud Deum adesse patronos. Et sicut nostra 
est terrena imperalis potentia, ems sacrosanctam Romanam 
ecclesiam decrevimus veneranter honorare, et amplius quam 
nostrum imperium et terrenum thronum sedem sacratissimam 
beati Petri gloriose exaltan, tribuentes ei potestatem et gloriae 
dignitatem atque vigorem et hononficentiam impenalem. 

12. Atque decernentes sancimus, ut principatum teneat, tarn 
super quattuor precipuas sedes Antiochenam, Alexandrinam, 
Constantinopolitanam et Hierosolimitanam, quamque etiam 
super omnes universo orbe terrarum Dei ecclesias; et ponti- 
fex, qui pro tempore ipsius sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae 
extiterit, celsior et princeps cunctis sacerdotibus totius mundi 
exsistat, et eius iudicio, quaeque ad cultum Dei vel fidei Chris- 
tianorum stabilitate procuranda fuerint, disponantur. Justum 
quippe est, ut ibi lex sancta caput teneat principatus, ubi sanc- 
tarum legum institutor, Salvator noster, beatum Petrum apos- 
tolatus obtinere precepit cathedram, ubi et crucis patibulum 
sustenens beate mortis sumpsit poculum suique magistn et 
domini imitator apparuit, et ibi gentes pro Christi nominis con- 
fessione colla flectant, ubi eorum doctor beatus Paulus apos- 
tolus pro Christo extenso collo martyrio coronatus est; illic 
usque in finem quaerant doctorem, ubi sanctum doctoris quies- 
cit corpus, et ibi proni ac humiliati caelestis regis, Dei salva- 
toris nostri Jesus Christi, f amulentur officio, ubi superbi terreni 
regis serviebant imperio. 

234 APPENDIX [234 

13, Interea nosse voiumus omnem populum universarum gen- 
tium ac nationum per totum orbem terrarum, construxisse nos 
intro palatium nostrum Lateranense eidem salvatori nostro 
domino Deo Jesu Christo ecclesiam a fundamentis cum bap- 
tisterio, et duodecim nos sciatis de ems fundamentis secundum 
numerum duodecim apostolorum cofinos terra onustatos pro- 
priis asportasse humeris ; quam sacrosanctam ecclesiam caput 
et verticem omnium ecclesiarum in universe orbe terrarum 
dici, coll, venerari ac predican sancimus, sicut per alia nostra 
imperialia decreta statuimus. Construximus itaque et ec- 
clesias beatorum Petri et Pauli, principum apostolorum, quas 
auro et argento locupletavimus, ubi et sacratissima eorum cor- 
pora cum magno honore recondentes, thecas ipsorum ex elec- 
tro, cui nulla fortitudo prevalet elementorum, construximus et 
crucem ex auro purissimo et gemmis preciosis per smgulas 
eorum thecas posuimus et clavis aureis confiximus, quibus pro 
concinnatione luminariorum possessionum predia contulimus, 
et rebus diversis eas ditavimus, et per nostras imperialium 
iussionum sacras tarn in onente quam in occidente vel etiam 
septentrionali et meridiana plaga, videlicet in Judea, Grecia, 
Asia, Thracia, Africa et Italia vel diversis insulis nostram 
largitatem eis concessimus, ea prorsus ratione, ut per manus 
beatissimi patris nostri Silvestrii pontificis successorumque 
eius omnia disponantur. 

14. Gaudeat enim una nobiscum omnis populus et gentium 
nationes in universo orbe terrarum ; exortantes omnes, ut Deo 
nostro et salvatori Jesu Christo immensas una nobiscum re- 
feratis grates, quoniam ipse Deus in caelis desuper et in terra 
deorsum, qui nos per suos sanctos visitans apostolos sanctum 
baptismatis sacramentum percipere et corporis sanitatem 
dignos efficit. Pro quo concedimus ipsis sanctis apostolis, 
dominis meis, beatissimis Petro et Paulo et per eos etiam beato 
Silvestrio patri nostro, summo pontifici et universal! urbis 
Romae papae, et omnibus eius successonbus pontificibus, qui 
usque in finem mundi in sede beati Petri erunt sessuri, atque 
de present! contradimus palatium imperii nostri Lateranense, 
quod omnibus in toto orbe terrarum prefertur atque precellet 

2 3 5] APPENDIX 235 

palatns, demde diadema videlicet coronam capitis nostri simul- 
que fngium nee non et superhumeralem, videlicet lorum, qui 
impenale circumdare adsolet collum, verum etiam et clamidem 
purpuream atque tunicam coccmeam et omnia imperialia in- 
dumenta seu et dignitatem impenalmm presedentmm equitum, 
conf erentes etiam et imperialia sceptra, simulque et conta atque 
signa, banda etiam et diversa ornamenta imperialia et omnem 
processionem impenalis culmmis et gloriam potestatis nostrae. 

15. Vins enim reverentissimis, clencis diversis ordmibus eidem 
sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae servientibus illud culmen, 
singularitatem, potentiam et precellentiam habere sancimus, 
cuius amplissimus noster senatus videtur gloria adornan, id 
est patricios atque consules efficii, nee non et ceteris dignitati- 
bus impenalibus eos promulgantes decoran ; et sicut imperials 
militia, ita et clerum sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae ornari 
decermmus; et quemadmodum imperialis potentia officiis 
diversis, cubiculariorum nempe et ostiariorum atque omnium 
excubiorum ornatu, ita et sanctam Romanam ecclesiam de- 
corari volumus ; et ut amplissime pontificalis decus pref ulgeat, 
decernimus et hoc, ut clerici emsdem sanctae Romanae ec- 
clesiae mappulis ex lenteammibus, id est candidissimo colore, 
eorum decoran equos et ita equitan, et sicut noster senatus 
calciamenta uti cum udonibus, id est candido Imteamme in- 
lustrari: ut sicut celestia ita et terrena ad laudem Dei de- 
corentur; pre omnibus autem licentiam tnbuentes ipso sanctis- 
simo patri nostro Silvestrio, urbis Romae episcopo et papae, 
et omnibus, qui post eum in successum et perpetuis tempori- 
bus advenerint, beatissimis pontificibus, pro honore et gloria 
Christi Dei nostri in eadem magna Dei catholica et apos- 
tolica ecclesia ex nostra synclitu, quern placatus proprio con- 
silio clericare voluerit et in numero religiosorum clericorum 
connumerare, ntillum ex omnibus presumentem superbe agere. 

id Decrevimus itaque et hoc, ut isdem venerabilis pater noster 
Silvester, sumtnus pontifex, vel omnes eius successores ponti- 
fices diadema, videlicet coronam, quam ex capiti nostro illi 
concessimus, ex auro purissimo et gemmis pretiosis uti de- 
beant et eorum capite ad laudem Dei pro honore beati Petri 

236 APPENDIX [236 

gestare ; ipse vero sanctissimus papa super coronam clencatus, 
quam gerit ad glonam beati Petri, omnmo ipsa ex auro non 
est passus uti corona, f rygium vero candido nitore splendidam 
resurrectionem domimcam designans ems sacratissimo vertici 
manibus nostris posuimus, et tenentes frenum equi ipsius pro 
reverentia beati Petri stratons officium illi exhibuimus; 
statuentes, eundem frygium omnes eius successores pontifices 
singulanter uti in processionibus. 

17. Ad imitationem imperil nostri, unde ut non pontificalis apex 
vilescat, sed magis amphus quam terreni impeni dignitas et 
gloriae potentia decoretur, ecce tarn palatium nostrum, ut 
prelatum est, quamque Romae urbis et omnes Itahae seu occi- 
dentalium regionum provintias, loca et civitates sepefato 
beatissimo pontifici, patri nostro Silvestrio, universali papae, 
contradentes atque relinquentes eius vel successorum ipsius 
pontificum potestati et ditioni firma imperiali censura per hanc 
nostram divalem sacram et pragmaticam constitutum decerni- 
mus disponendam atque mre sanctae Romanae ecclesiae con- 
cedimus permanendam. 

18. Unde congruum prospeximus, nostrum imperium et regni 
potestatem orientalibus transferri ac transmutari regionibus 
et in Byzantiae provintia in Optimo loco nomini nostro civita- 
tem aedificari et nostrum illic constitui impenum; quoniam, 
ubi principatus sacerdotum et Christianae religionis caput ab 
imperatore celeste constitutum est, justum non est, ut illic 
imperator terrenus habeat potestatem. 

19. Hec vero omma, que per hanc nostram impenalem sacram 
et per alia divalia decreta statuimus atque confirmavimus, 
usque m finem mundi inlibata et mconcussa permanenda de- 
cernimus; unde coram Deo vivo, qui nos regnare precepit et 
coram terribili eius iudicio obtestamus per hoc nostrum im- 
perialem constitutum omnes nostros successores imperatores 
vel cunctos optimates, satrapes etiam, amplissimum senatum 
et universum populum in toto orbe terrarum, nunc et in pos- 
terum cunctis retro temporibus imperio nostro subiacenti, nulli 
eorum quoquo modo licere, hec, que a nobis imperiali sanctione 
sacrosanctae Romanae ecclesiae vel eius omnibus pontificibus 

237] APPENDIX 237 

concessa sunt, refragare aut confringere vel in quoquam con- 
velli. Si quis autem, quod non credimus, in hoc temerator 
aut contemptor extiterit, aeternis condemnationibus subiaceat 
innodatus, et sanctos Dei principes apostolorum Petrum et 
Paulum sibi in presenti et futura vita sentiat contraries, atque 
in inferno inferior! concrematus, cum diabolo et omnibus 
deficiat impiis. 

20. Huius vero imperialis decreti nostri paginam propriis mani- 
bus roborantes super venerandum corpus beati Petn, principis 
apostolorum, posuimus, ibique eidem Dei apostolo spondentes, 
nos cuncta inviolabiliter conservare et nostns successoribus 
imperatonbus conservanda in mandatis relmqui, beatissimo 
patri nostro Silvestrio summo pontifici et universal! papae 
eiusque per eum cunctis successoribus pontificibus, domino 
Deo et salvatore nostro Jesu Christo annuente, tradidimus 
perenniter atque feliciter possidendam. 

Et subscriptio imperialis : 

t Divinitas vos conservet per multos annos, sanctissimi et 
beatissimi patres. 

Datum Roma sub die tercio Kalendarum Apriliarum, domno 
nostro Flavio Constantino augusto quater et Galligano viris 
clarissimis consuhbus. 

238 APPENDIX [238 



De concordantia cathohca, lib. Ill, cap. ii x 

Num praeterire nequeo, quoniam pene omnium sententia 
indubitata est, Constantinum Imperatorem, occidentis im- 
perium Romano pontifici Silvestro, ac ejus in aevum succes- 
soribus perpetuo dono tradidisse; et ideo etiam si ratio de 
unitate principantis, scilicet adversari bono et recto ordini, 
duo capita fore non concluderet, pateret tamen in Occidente 
Imperatorem nullum nisi a papa dependenter impenum cog- 
nosceret, juste esse posse. Hanc radicem quoadpotui investi- 
gavi, praesupponens hoc etiam indubitatum esse, Constantinum 
talem donationem facere potuisse: quae tamen qtiaestio nee 
soluta est hactenus, nee solvetur verisimiliter uncquam. 

Sed in veritate supra modum admiror, si res ita est, eo quod 
in autenticis libris et in histonis approbatis non invemtur. 
Relegi omnia quae potui gesta imperialia ac Romanorum pon- 
tificum, historias sancti Hieronymi, qui ad cuncta colligendum 
diligentissimus fuit, Augustini, Ambrosii, ac aliorum opuscula 
pentissimorum, revolvi gesta sacrorum conciliorum quae post 
Nicenum f uere et nullam invenio concordantiam ad ea, quae 
de ilia donatione leguntur. Sanctus Damasus papa ad in- 
stantiam beati Hieronymi, actus et gesta praedecessorum dici- 
tur annotasse, in cujus opere de Sylvestro papa non ea in- 
veniuntur quae vulgo dicuntur Legitur in certis historiis Con- 
stantinum a Silvestro baptizatum, et ipsum imperatorem tres 
illas, sancti Joannis, sanctorum Petri et Pauli ecclesias miri- 
fice ornasse, ac annuos multos redditus e diversis massis ter- 
rarum in diversis provinciis et insuhs pro continuando ornatu 
lampadarum balsami et nardipistici, ac caeterorum, donasse y 
de quibus omnibus particularem mentionem in pontificum libro 

1 Reprinted from the 1520 edition of the works of Nicholas Cusanus 
with a few changes in the interest of modernization. Cf. supra, 
pp. 188-191. 

239] APPENDIX 239 

reperies. Sed de donatione temporahs dominii, aut imperil 
Occidentis, nihil ibi penitus contmetur 

Verum quid postquam Astulfus rex Longobardorum ex- 
archaium Ravennatem occupavit, cum aliis multis locis, et 
Stephanus secundus natione Romanus ex patre Constantino, 
multis legatis ad Astulfum missis rogaret imperiali ditioni 
loca restitui, et facere non vellet Astulfus, Stephanus Pip- 
pinum adiens, eum cum duobus filiis in reges unxit. Fuit 
etiam cum eodem Stephano orator missus Imperatoris, et a 
Pippino impetrarunt, ut Astulfum induceret, quod imperio 
loca restitueret. Misit Pippinus, nee profecit. Unde cum 
non posset sic ab Astulfo restitutionem impetrare, promisit 
Stephano se vi ablaturum ab eo, et sancto Petro daturum. 
Hoc audito revertitur impenalis missus. Pippmus, quae 
promiserat explevit. Forma vero hujus donationis m gestis 
praefati Stephani cum nominatione particular! omnium 
bonorum continetur. Zacharias papa monarchiam regni 
Franciae in Pippmum transtulit, Ludovico rege deposito, de 
quo legitur, XV q. VI, alius, et in gloss, venerabilem. Ex illo 
puto Pippinum sedi apostolicae favisse. Post hoc Desiderius 
rex iterum illas civitates aut earum aliquas, tempore Adrian! 
sexti coepit. Adrianus papa multis missis ad eum legatis, 
repetiit jus sancti Petri, impetrare non potuit. Tune Carolus 
magnus invocatus per Adrianum, recuperavit, et iterum dona- 
vit sancto Petro solenni donatione, quae in gestis ejusdem 
Adriani papae continentur. Ex istis constat Constantinum; 
imperium per exarchatum Ravennatem, urbem Romam, et 
Occidentem minime papae dedisse. 

Unde continue legitur, Imperatores usque ad tempora prae- 
fata sicut prius pleno jure Romam, Ravennam, et Marchiam 
cum aliis locis possedisse. Et probat textus XCVI, distin. 
" bene quidam," ubi dicit de Patricio praef ecto nomine Adoa- 
cris regis; et LXIII, distin. "Agatha"; XCVI, distin "cum 
ad verum," cum similibus. Et Romanes pontifices legimus 
Imperatores sateri dominos. Scribit enim Agatho papa ad 
Imperatorem Constantinum, qui sextam Synodum congrega- 
vit, et multis annis secutus est primum, quomodo urbs Roma 

240 APPENDIX [240 

sit ipsius Imperatoris servilis urbs. Et Bonifacius papa ad 
Honorium, qui dicit, quod ecclesiae Romanae ipse habet 
regere sacerdotium, sed Imperator humanas res, et in fine 
dicit Romam esse urbem suae mansuetudinis , hie textus habe- 
tur XCI distin. " ecclesiae." Et ut breviter dicam, nullibi con- 
tranum legi quin usque ad ilia praefata Pippmi tempora Im- 
perator remansent in possessione locorum praetactorum. Nee 
unquam legi aliquem Romanorum pontificum usque ad tempora 
Stephani secundi, in ilhs locis nomine sancti Petri aliquid 
juris praesumpsisse habere. 

Haec credo vera esse, non obstante famigera opinione de 
contrario, quae in palea habetur Constantinus, XCVI distin. 
quoniam absque dubio, si non fuisset illud dictamen apro- 
cryphum, Gratianus in vetenbus codicibus, et canonum collec- 
tionibus invenisset, et quia non invenit, non posuit Unde 
quae postea addidit, pro palea ita illam confictam scripturam 
posuit, sicut multa alia inveniuntur ex apocryphis libris nos- 
tris inscnpta. Ego etiam ad longum hanc scripturam in 
quodam hbro inveni, quae multo plus continet, quam ea quae 
in decreto ponitur loco praeallegato, et diligenter earn exami- 
nans reperi ex ipsamet scriptura, argumenta manifesta con- 
fictionis et falsitatis, quae pro nunc longum et inutile foret his 
inserere. Etiam est advertendum, quod textus Constantinus, 
XCVI distin. est ex legenda sancti Silvestri extractus, et fundat 
ille qui imposuit decreto, autoritatem ipsius textus in appro- 
batione Gelasii in Synodo. Rogo videatur XV disin. " sancta 
Romana " ilia approbatio, et inveniet pauci robons, quia dicit 
auctorem ignorari, et tamen per cathohcos legi, et ea propter 
legi posse, qualis sit approbatio, quisque considerare potest. 
Multae enim sunt historiae sancti Silvestri; una in quo hoc 
non invemtur, quam sanctus Damasus ponit, alia cujus auctor 
ignoratur, quam textus non dicit veram sed legi posse, neque 
dicit in ilia hoc contineri. Etiam antiqua decreta non habent 
textum, nisi usque ad ver. " Item decreta Romanorum ponti- 
ficum " inclusive, et sic non invemtur in illis libris iste ver. de 
historia Silvestri Quinta etiam universalis Synodus, quae de 
approbatis doctorum omnium, et scripturarum approbatarum 

241] APPENDIX 241 

libris mentionem facit, ac etiam ipsa synodus Martini papae, 
quae fuit contra afferentes unam voluntatem in Christo, sci- 
licet contra Petrum et Sergium, renovans approbatas scrip- 
turas, ut egomet vidi, nullam de istis historiis faciunt men- 
tionem, nee quisquam approbatus aut nominatus inter veri- 
dicos, quern unquam vidi. 

Ego legi in Vicentio historiarum, XXIIII libro, in fine, 
secundum sanctum Hieronymum, Constantinum uxorem Faus- 
tam, et filium Crispum crudeliter occidisse, et in extremo 
vitae ab Eusebio Nicomediae episcopo baptizatum, in Arianam 
haeresim declinasse. A quo tempore, inquit Hieronymus, 
ecclesiarum rapinae, et totius orbis discordia secuta est usque 
in praesens tempus. Ista libro de actibus Silvestri, quern Vin- 
centius dicit a quondam cujus nomen ignorat e Graeco trans- 
latum, ut eodem libro cap. IX habetur, manifeste contradi- 
cunt. Quis non crederet potius Hieronymo approbate, quam 
ignoti auctoris scripturis, quae apocryphae dicuntur, quando 
auctor ignoratur ? 

Textus etiam qui asscribitur Melchiadi papae, qui habetur 
XII q. i. f uturam, qui videtur huic dicto aliquantulum obstare, 
non est Melchiadis papae secundum glossam quandam, et etiam 
rei veritatem, quia Melchiades praecessit Silvestrum, ut patet 
in catalogo Romanorum pontificum. Et si Constantinus fuit 
baptizatus a Silvestro secundum commune dictum, tune patet 
titulum illius textus falsum, quia loquitur de baptismo Con- 
stantini. Et etiam si Melchiadis foret ille textus, adhuc non 
haberetur argumentum ex eo contra praemissa, quia non dicit 
aliud quam Constantinum sedem Romanam imperialem reli- 
quisse, et Petro et successoribus consessisse. Hoc est, quod 
ubi fuit sedes imperialis, quod ibi sit modo papalis, quod non 
negatur. Et verum est Constantinum imperatorem tempore 
Melchiadis papae fuisse, et tune Christianum, ut per Angus- 
tinum in multis locis hoc habetur, et maxime in epistola ad 
Glorium et Elusium, et quibus hoc gratum est, quae incipit, 
" Dixit quidem apostolos," et hoc concordat cum Hieronymo. 

Vidi etiam decretum Leonis papae in synodo Romana cum 
subscriptione episcoporum et clericorum et civium Roman- 

242 APPENDIX [242 

orum, ubi Leo papa Othoni primo restituit omnia loca per 
Pippinum et Carolum et Robertum reges sancto Petro data. 
Et nominantur in eodem decreto omnia loca, et nullam facit 
de donatione Constantini mentionem * 

Sunt meo judicio ilia de Constantino apocrypha, sicut for- 
tassis etiam quaedam aha longa et magna scripta sanctis 
dementi et Anacleto papae attributa, in quibus volentes Ro- 
manam sede omni laude dignam, plus quam ecclesiae sanctae 
expedit et exaltare, se pemtus aut quasi fundant 

Sicut nee de Constantini donatione se majorem arguere 
deberet, quae si etiam indubia f oret, quid in spirituali cathedra 
potestatis ecclesiasticae augere possit, quisque intelhgit. Non 
adhuc dubitaretur de ejus validitate solum quae diligent i in- 
quisitione, quam pro veritate scienda repenre potui scribo, 
salvo in omnibus judicio sacrae Synodi. Et si omnia ilia quae 
praenarrata sunt, ex acceptatione ecclesiae firma censeri de- 
bent, placet et mihi, quia etiam illis omnibus scripturis e medio 
sublatis, sanctam Romanam ecclesiam pnmam, summae potes- 
tatis, excellentiae, inter cunctas sedes quisque catholicus 

1 The two following paragraphs on this page I have taken from 
ihe reprint in Schard, op. cit. 



For Bibliography of material published before 1890, see Nicene and 
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a General Collections 

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and others (Berlin, 1826, in progress). 
Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff (New York, 1890 


Panegyric* Latim, ed. Bahrens (Leipsic, 1874). 
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- Ser. Graeca (P. G.), 166 vols. (Pans, 1857-1866). 

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Sacrorum Conciliorum Collectio, ed. J. D. Mansi (Florence and Venice, 

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Names of modern writers are indicated by SMALL CAPS, titles of 
writings by italics. 

Abgar legend, 156-157 

Acts of Sylvester, cf. Vita Silvestn 

Addai (Thaddeus), 116, 156 

Addai, Doctrine of, 116 

Ado of Vienne, 178 

Adultery, legislation on, 44 

Aeneas Sylvius, 199, 200 

Aldhelm, 150 

Alexander VI, 201 

Alfonso of Aragon and Naples, 193 

Ambrose of Milan, 153, 169 

Ammianus Marcellinus, 63, 89, 123 

Anastasia, 74 

Anselm of Lucca, 178 

Antioch, Church at, 57 

Antoninus of Florence, 201 

Anulmus, Rescript to, 30, 31 

Apollo, cf., also, Sun-worship, 76, 85 

Apotheosis of Emperors, 47, 61 

Arch of Constantine, 47-52 

Arian controversy, 70-71, 82 

Ariosto, 202 

Arius, 70, 71 

Aries, Synod of, 69 

Armenia, 157, is8n 

Arte miits, Life of St , 140 

Athanasius, 71 

Augustine, 141 

Balsamon, 179 

Baptism of Constantme, cf , Con- 

Baronius, 170, 206-207 
Basle, Council of, 189 et seq. 
Bernard, St., 187 
Bethlehem, Church at, 57 
Bishops, Judicial Powers of, 41 
Blastares, 179 
Boniface III, 180 
Boniface VIII, 178 
Bonizo, 171 

Bordeaux Pilgrim, 57n, 120 

Bneger, 21 

1 Breviary, The, 172 

I B runner, 214 

1 BURCKHARDT, 2O, 45, 65 

BURY, 66 

Caealian, Bp of Carthage, 63n4, 69 

Caesars, The, 124 

Cathalanus, 200 

Celibacy of the Clergy, 32 

Charlemagne, 200 

Children, Legislation on, 43-44 

Christianity, Adoption of, 9, 17 
et seq. t 37 ft seq , 83-86, 90-99, 
102 et seq , 123 

Christianity, and Paganism, 82 et 
seq, 95-96 

Church, Privileges of, 32 et passim 

Church Property, 30 

Claudius, Emperor, 113 

Claudius, Legend of Constantine's 
Descent from, 105, 112 et seq 

Clergy, Privileges of, 31-32, 40 

Codex Theodostanus, cf. Theo- 
dosian Code 

Codmus, 129 

Coinage, cf , Constantine 

Concubinage, Legislation on, 44 

Constance, Council of, 188 

Constans, Emperor, 37 

Constantia, 60, 114 

Constantine, the Great 

Baptism, 87-89, 95, *59, 160, 171 , 
Career, 10, 112; -Church build- 
ing, 56-61, 147-148, 163; Coinage, 
45-47; Donation of. cf. Conshtti- 
turn Constantim; Conversion, 72- 
82, 106, 125-128, 133-135 et seq. f 
141, 152 et seq ; "Edict to the 
Inhabitants of the Province of 
Palestine" 39, no; "Edict to the 
People . . . the Error of Poly- 
theism" 39; Influence of, 9 et seq., 


INDEX [25* 

17-19, 103, As Legend-maker 
105-107, 139-140; Legendary 
Leprosy, 153-155, 16*2 et passim, 
Legislation, 25-45; Literature on 
19-23, Miraculous Aid, 131 e 
seq.; Miraculous Visions, 77-79 
109, 136 et seq. , Moral Character 
89-94, 142; Motives and Disposi- 
tion, 17, 68, 71, 78, 80-81, 86-87 
108, Oration to the Saints (the 
Easter Sermon), no; Piety, 141 
et seq ; Religious Position, 54-55 
146 et passim 

Constantinople, 57-58, 148 et seq. 

Constantius, Father of Constantine 
the Great, 73-74, 114, 120 

Constantius, Son of Constantine the 
Great, 91 

Constitutum Constantini, 12-13, 168 
175-183, 194-195, 209 et seq. 

Const itutum Sylvestn, 166-167 

Cortesi, 201 

Crispus, 77-91-92, in, 127-128, 130 

CRIVELLUCI, 27-28, 109 

Cross, The, 80 

" Cross, Legend of the True ", 60, 
116 et seq., 159 

CUMONT, 83-84 

Cusanus, 189 et seq. 

Cyril of Jerusalem, 120 

Dante, 179, 193 

Decretum Gelasn, 165 

DESSAU, 114 

Deusdedit, Cardinal, 178 

Diocletian, 61, 100-101, 112, 115 

Diocletian Persecution, 66 

Dionysius Exiguus, 165 

Divination, cf. Magic 

DOLGER, F. J., 23 

Donation of Constantine, cf. Con- 

stitutum Constantmi 
Donatist schism, 58, 68-69 
Donate, Girolamo, 201 
DUCHESNE, 22, in, 154, i55n, 158 

DURUY, 21 

Easter, 70-82 

Easter Sermon, cf. Constantine, 

Oration of 

Edict of Milan, cf. Milan 
Edict to the People . . . the Error 

of Polytheism, cf. Constantine 

Edict to the Inhabitants of the Pro 

vince of Palestine t cf. Constantmi 
Ekkehard, 171 
Episcopal Courts, 41 
Equitius, Church of, 60 
Erasmus, 192 
Eugenius III, 178 
Eugenius IV, 194, 198 
Eumenius, 42-43, 74-76, 101, 113 
Eunapius, 65, 12-3, 128 
Eusebms of Caesar ea, 27-29, 38, 53 

62-63, 71-74, 106, 107-112, 133, 135 

142, 162, 167, 195-196 

Church History, 54, in 

Life of Constantine, 38-39, 54 

88, 107 et seq., in, 142, I44-H5 
Oration in Praise of Constan 

tine, 86, 107 ** seq., 126, 139, 14^ 
E'usebius of Nicomedia, 62, 153 

159-160, 171 
Eusebius of Rome, 119, 152-153 

T, I59 ? 71 
Eutropms, 89, 114, 123 

Evagrius, 129, 143 

Far fa, Monastery of, 186 

Fausta, 58, 91-92, in, 127, 128, 130 

Fefachism, 79 

Forgery, 13, 102, no-ni, 168, 175 

211 et seq. 
Fredegar, 169 
Frederic I, 186 
Frehulf, 169 

Galentts, Edict of, 27 

Gaza, 53 


Gelasn, Decrctum, 165 

Gelasius of Cyzicus, 153 

Gesta Libeni, 166, 171 

Gesta Silvestri, cf. I 7 ita Silvestri 

GIBBON, EDWARD, 20, 120, 140 

jrladiatonal Exhibitions, 43 

Glycas, 6*5 

GORRES, FRANZ, 22, 27-28, no 

Gottfried of Bamberg, 187 

jratian, 178 

j-regory the Great, 167 

Gregory VII, 178, 181 

Gregory IX, 178, 180 

Gregory the Illuminator, 157 

'"rRISAR, 22 

Hadrian T, 210 

257] INDEX 

Hadrian IV, 178 

Haruspices, 35, 76 

Healing, Miraculous, 96 

Helena, 112, 116 et seq., 121, 152, 


Heliopohs, Church at, 57 
Hereditary (Succession, 115 
Heretical Sects, 32, 40 
Hermann the Lame, 169 
Hincmar, 178 

Hispellum, Inscription at, 52 
Histona Tripartite^, 169, 185 
Historical Writing among the Ro- 

mans, 100 et seq. 
Historical Criticism, Modern, 208 

et seq. 

HODGKIN, E. M., 13, 180 
Hosius, 62, 128 
Hugo of Fleury, 178 
Hutten, Ulnch yon, 199, 20^ et seq. 
Immorality, legislation on, 44 
Innocent III, 178, 180-181 
Innocent IV, 178 
Inscriptions, 45-47, 47-52 
Isapostolos, 143 
Isidore, 169 
Isidorean Decretals, cf. Pseudo- 

Ivo of Chartres, 178 

Jacob of Sarug, cf. James 
James of Sarug, 154 et seq., 158 
Jerome, 38, 88n2, 141, 143, 169, 185, 

T I91 ' 1 I9S t. 1. 
Jerusalem, churches at, 57 


Judas Cyriac, 118 

Julian, Emperor, 66, 89, 90, 114, 

Justin Martyr, 34 

Kanonaris, 65 

>Labarum, 47, 6, 77-81, 106-107, 134 
Lactantius, 27, 29, 53-54, 62, 73n4 

77 et seq., 84, 138 
Laetus, Pompomus, 199 
Lateran church, 58-59, 160, 176 t 
Laws, cf. Constantino, legislation 

Legends, cause and significance, 9- 

12, 99 et seq. 
Leo IX, 178 

Leopold of Bebenburg, 187 
Leprosy, 165, cf. also Coii-tantine 
Libamus, 38, 123 

Liber Pontificate, 59, 119, 147, 160 
Licmius, 26, 27, 37, 55, 81, 91-92, 133 
Life of Constantme cf. Eusebms 

of Caesarea 

Louis the Pious, 200, 214 
Luther, 204-205 

Magic, cf. also Divination, 35-36 
Mamre, Church at, 57 
MAN so, no 

Manumission of Slaves, 32-33 
Mananus Scotus, 169 
Marsiglio of Padua, 187 
Maxentius, 72, 76-81, 112, 132 et 


Maximian, 114 
Melchiades, cf Miltiades 
MIGNE, 170 
Milan, Edict, or Rescript of, 19, 

Miltiades, Bishop of Rome, 58, 69, 

162, 195-196, 205 
Milvian Bridge, Battle of, 77-79 
Mmervina, 91 
Miraculous Cures, 96n i 
Mithraism, 33, 34, 85^ 
Mombritius (Mombrizio), x6n., 166 
MOM M SEN, no 
Monogram of Christ, cf also La- 

barum, 47, 61, 77-81, 137-141 
Monotheism, -Roman, 30, 51, 76, 82, 

94, 96 

Moses of Chorene, 55, 158-159 
Mount of Olives, 57 

Nazarius, 56, 74, 76, roi, 132-133 
Nicea, first Council of, 63, 70, 81, 

103, no, in 

Nicea, second Council of,, 169 
Nicholas of Cues (Cusa), cf. 


Nicholas III, 178 
Nicholas V, 198 
Nicomedia, Church at, 57 
Notitia, 59 

INDEX [058 

Olympiodorus, 128 

Oration of Constantine, cf. Con 

Oration in Praise of Constantine 

cf. Eusebius 
Otto III, 185 
Paganism, 26, 37 et seq., 45, 63-67 

73-76, 82, 94, 95-96 
Panegyrists, 66, 74, 76, 101, 108, 

131, 142 

Paul I, 211, 212, 213 
Pecock, Reginald, 199-200 
Peter Damiam, 178 
PETER, H., 101, 109 
Philostorgms, 140, 143, 150 
Piccolommi, cf Aeneas Sylvius 
Picernus, Barthol emeus, 201 
Pippin, 200, 212 
Pius II, cf Aeneas Sylvius 
Pontifex Maximus, 40, 67 
Poggio, 197 
Porcaro, 199 

Praxagoras Atheniensis, 123 
Prosper, 169 
Protonice, 116-117 
Pseudo-Isidore an Decretals, 178, 211 

Quarto Incoronati, Church of, 170 

Religious Toleration and Liberty, 


Rome, Churches at, 58-61 
Rossi, DE, 49 
Rufinus, 153, 196 

St. Denis, Monastery of, 211 
Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, 

Church of, 59-60 
Scarampo, Cardinal, 197 

SCHEFFER-BOICHORST, 12-13, 211 et 


SCHULTZE, V., 22, 38 53, IIO 

SCHWARTZ, Ep., 23, 07-08, 94 
Scriptores Histonae Augustae, 100, 

SEECK, O, 19, 22, 26, 27, 67-68, 78, 

no, 112, 114, iisn.2 
Sepulchre, Church of the, 57 

SESAN, V., 28 

Slavery, cf. also Manumission, 32, 


Socrates, 143 

Soothsayers, cf. Haruspices 

Sopater, 65, 128, 129 

Soracte, Mt, 162, 170 

Sozomen, 129, 135, 143, 149 

Statues, Equestrian, 144 

Stephen II, 211, 212, 213 

Stephen IV, 214 

Steuchus, 205 

Suidas, 65 

Sun-worship, 33 

Sunday, 32-35 

Symmachus, Pope, 163 

Sylvester, Bishop of Rome, cf, als,: 
Vita Silvestri, 119, 150-131, 153, 
155, 159, 161 et seq , 170, 176 

Sylvester II, 185 

iSyraptim (Syraptis), c-*. also 
Soracte, 162, 170 

Temples, Pagan, 30:, 63-64 

Tertullian, 34 

Thaddeus, cf. Addai 

Theodoret, 139, 143, 145, 152 

Theodosian Code, 57 

Trdat-(Tindates), 157 

Twelve Apostles, Church of *he, 5r 

Urban II, 178 

Valens, 65 

Valla, Lorenzo, 13, 191 et seq 
Victor, Sextus Aurehus, QO. 1-3 
Vita Silvestri, cf. also Sylvester, 
118, 159, 161 et seq , 165-168, 196 
Vitteleschi, Cardinal, 194 
Voragme, 120 

Walther von der Vogehveide, 180 
Wetzel, 186-187 

Wills in favor of the Church, 32 
WITTIG, J., 29 
Wzrol, Ludwig, 23 
Zosimus, 38, 56-57, 65, 89, 128, 
130, 141 

in ttte itij xrf 

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